Whenever you see a study (or survey), the first thing you need to do before drawing any conclusions about said study's (or survey's) conclusions is to determine what question was asked. For example, a newly completed study found that "peak coal" could occur as soon as 2011. We've been hearing about peak oil for years – and more recently peak lithium – but, until now, exhausting coal reserves has not been seen as a problem.

The paper just released by Tadeusz Patzek at The University of Texas at Austin and Gregory Croft at the University of California, Berkeley is limited to looking at production from existing coal fields and mines, which is expected to start declining after 2011. Of course, this is only a problem if no new coal production is started, something that is not expected for many decades to come.

On the plus side, if we do stop blowing the tops off of mountains and just proceed with exhausting the existing mines, then CO2 production from burning the coal to produce power will drop by nearly half over the next 40 years. Unfortunately, that scenario is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

[Source: Green Car Congress]

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