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Peak Coal Has Arrived

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A new peer-reviewed study in the journal Science has concluded that world coal production will peak next year. The study finds that on a business-as-usual scenario of exploitation (i.e. without efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions), coal production from existing reserves "is predicted to occur close to the year 2011". After this year, the study warns, "production rates of coal" decline to 1990 levels by the year 2037, reaching "50% of the peak value in the year 2047." It's "unlikely" that any future discoveries of coal reserves will ameliorate this decline.

The Science projections are a major blow to advocates of 'clean coal' technology as a viable solution to cutting CO2 emissions, simply because there is not enough to come anywhere near meeting world energy demand. They also confirm the worst fears of energy analysts who have tracked the inexorable decline in hydrocarbon energies this century. The Energy Watch Group previously forecasted that world coal production would most likely peak around 2025. Now that looks like an extremely conservative prediction.

Given that world oil production most likely has already peaked as of 2005, plateauing through to 2008, and now inexorably declining since then, it would seem we're in for a rather rough ride. Meanwhile, Obama in the US stands by watching the economy slide deeper into recession, while the UK coalition govt insists that the cuts will save us all even as the economy slows.


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Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the 'System Shift' column for VICE's Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The (more...)

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