The US has more than a 100-year coal supply

According to one widely accepted estimate, there is 224 times as much coal in the ground in the US (and accessible to mining — an important qualifier) as the country uses in a year.[[British Petroleum. BP Statistical Review of World Energy, (PDF) 2009.]]

 Another way of putting it is that it would take us 224 years to use up all our domestic coal at current consumption rates — and that’s if we do not find any new sources.

Coal is also plentiful in other parts of the world, notably China and India — countries that are experiencing rapid economic growth, along with a fast-growing demand for energy. Coal is also inexpensive relative to other energy sources. All of these factors make coal an attractive source of power.

But coal is also the greatest contributor to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which in turn is raising the planet’s temperature. By 2100, according to the IPCC, global temperatures could rise by an average of 7°F if CO2 emissions continue to grow at the current rate. In the US,  the increase could be more like 9°F.

One way to limit emissions and the rise in temperatures would be through increased efficiency. Many experts believe that so-called clean-coal technology, where carbon is removed from coal-plant exhaust and buried underground is a key to the reductions necessary to avoid significant climate impacts. This animation shows how this technology works.