Peak Oil is You

Donate Bitcoins ;-) or Paypal :-)

Page added on December 4, 2016

Bookmark and Share

Trump’s Cruel Promise to Bring Jobs Back to Coal Country

Trump’s Cruel Promise to Bring Jobs Back to Coal Country thumbnail

Paul Lewis and Tom Silverstone asked out-of-work coal miners why they supported Donald Trump. The answer was simple. Hillary Clinton literally promised that if she were elected, there would be “a lot of coal miners out of work.” Donald Trump promised to reopen the coal mines and get miners back to work.

But that’s unlikely to happen.

A Brief History of Coal

US coal production dropped 10.3 percent year over year in 2015. It’s now below 900 million short tons, the lowest annual production level since 1986.

12_04_Coal_Chart_01 EIA Coal Report

In late 2015 and early 2016, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal all filed for bankruptcy.

In a statement announcing the bankruptcy, Peabody blamed “a dramatic drop in the price of metallurgical coal, weakness in the Chinese economy, overproduction of domestic shale gas, and ongoing regulatory challenges” for the “unprecedented” industry downturn in recent years.

Automation and fracking killed coal. And neither are going anywhere anytime soon.

12_04_Coal_Trump_01 Coal miners enter a mine near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. Cathy Reisenwitz writes that in late 2015 and early 2016, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal all filed for bankruptcy. Automation and fracking killed coal. And neither are going anywhere anytime soon. Robert Galbraith/reuters


Nearly half of all the coal mined in the US each year comes from the Powder River Basin. There, 7,000 workers extract nearly 500 million tons of coal each year – an average of roughly 66,000 tons of coal for each worker.

Modern coal mining is highly mechanized and employs relatively few workers. “Modern-day coal mining is highly mechanized and it employs relatively few workers,” writes Eric de Place, Energy Policy Director for the Sightline Institute.

“Starting in the early 1980s, mechanization and explosives replaced mine workers,” according to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Strip mining-like techniques vastly increased worker productivity. Kentucky coal production has declined by 19 percent while employment has dropped 62 percent.

The same thing happened in manufacturing. In 1950, a quarter of all workers worked in manufacturing. In 2015, that number was 8percent. Yet manufacturing as a percentage of GDP hasn’t changed since 1960.


Huffington Post Senior Reporter Kate Sheppard wrote that President Obama’s regulations didn’t kill coal. “What’s driving the coal industry into bankruptcy is the free market — competition from cheaper, more abundant natural gas and renewable energy.”

Sheppard is partly right. Today, natural gas and renewable energy are cheaper and more abundant than coal. But that’s hardly a result of competition from the free market.

There is no market for renewable energy. Solar and wind energies only exist because government insists on it, propping up well connected companies with subsidies and tax credits. One such tax credit allows wind electricity producers to pay energy distributors to take their electricity and yet still make a profit.

Similarly, one reason natural gas is more abundant and cheaper than coal is the millions of dollars the federal government has sunk into hydraulic fracturing.

In 1975, the Department of Energy helped fund the first Appalachian Basin directional wells to tap shale gas. Between 1978 and 1992, the Department of Energy invested about $137 million into research and development on behalf of energy companies. Then the DOE put another $100 million in between 2005 and 2013.

12_04_Coal_Chart_02 DOE and EIA

The DOE-sponsored Eastern Gas Shale Program studied directional drilling, microseismic monitoring of multi-stage hydraulic fracturing treatments, and modeling. These investments “helped demonstrate and commercialize many of the technologies in use today,” and “made the American shale revolution possible.”

At the same time DOE investment in fracking began to skyrocket, employment in coal mines began to dip precipitously.

12_04_Coal_Chart_03 DOE

One study found that from 2008 to 2012 the coal industry shed 50,000 jobs.

“The coal industry has been in steady decline for a decade, partly as a result of the natural gas boom,” wrote former mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg.

“Regulations on the coal industry, as well as carbon emissions regulations more generally, have hurt the coal sector, as have subsidies for clean energy,” economist Lyman Stone wrote. “Meanwhile, cheap natural gas has dealt other fossil fuels, including coal, a body blow.”

Stone blames some of the steepness of the job losses in coal to unionism. Unions hindered mines’ attempts to restructure their workforces in light of decreased demand, resulting in large, yet unproductive labor pools.

cathy4 Author

What’s Next

Natural gas would have likely replaced coal even without government help. But why didn’t industry pay for its own R&D? After all, the money is there. Natural gas pipeline operators’ profits rose more than 13 percent in 2015, to roughly $5.4 billion.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s related to politicians’ investments in fracking companies. Further, if the federal government is going to spend at least $237 million on fracking, why put just $14.5 million aside to retrain coal miners ?

“All work has dignity and importance, whether done by a street sweeper, Michelangelo, or Beethoven,” wrote Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democratic Senator in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. “People take pride in the things they make, in serving their communities in hospitals or schools, in making their contribution to society with a job well done. But over the past 40 years, as people have worked harder for less pay and fewer benefits, the value of their work has eroded. When we devalue work, we threaten the pride and dignity that come from it.”

Unfortunately, economists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy and Research Institute found that, even when counting the indirect jobs and other secondary jobs, nearly any other infrastructure investment produces more jobs than coal. “Coal mining is a poor strategy to create jobs,” de Place warns.

But that message isn’t getting through to voters in places like McDowell County. Coal miner Thomas Stern told NPR, “I’m starting on 32 years and it’s a very good job. And I love coal mining. It’s just a good way to make a living around here.”

Innovation, Not Stagnation

Human nature remains strangely constant in the face of technological innovation. Frederic Bastiat trolled Luddites in 1845 with his Candlemaker’s Petition. Bringing back coal in a natural gas economy is on par with blotting out the sun to protect candlemakers’ jobs.

We can do better than black lung in 2016. Creative destruction is unpleasant. One-third of McDowell County families live in poverty. More than 60 percent of families with children under five live in poverty.

Bringing back coal won’t bring back jobs. And even if it did, we should be able to do better than black lung in 2016. Unemployment doesn’t create poverty. Scarcity does that. Scarcity creates poverty. Scarcity causes black lung. Scarcity makes us think that our best option is to vote against trade in order to get back into the coal mine.

Innovation gets us from candles to electricity. Innovation gets us from dirty, dangerous, inefficient coal to cleaner, safer, cheaper natural gas. Innovation brings the cost of food, energy, and transportation down. The only way to fight scarcity is innovation.

Reducing the minimum wage can help incentivize employers to train new workers. Repealing licensure laws will help the unemployed find new jobs. Cutting red tape will help spur new business creation. And killing the payroll tax, which takes 30 percent of your first dollar earned, will help incentivize people to get back to work after their industries die out.

We can sympathize with the struggles of people dealing with economic change while hamstrung by the government. But sapping their self-reliance and fostering dependence with paternalistic “solutions” would only debilitate them further.

And ultimately we must remember that the goal of public policy is not putting the people of McDowell County back in the coal mines: it’s getting the government out of the way of innovation so it can kill scarcity.


33 Comments on "Trump’s Cruel Promise to Bring Jobs Back to Coal Country"

  1. Boat on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 3:30 pm 

    Climate change and health costs are the canaries in the coal mine. Coal needs to die as quick as possible. End immigration and free up a million jobs a year. Send back ileagles and poof we have a crippling shortage of workers. Don’t blame subsidies for cleaner energy while they grow to scale.

  2. Ghung on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 3:36 pm 

    “Reducing the minimum wage can help incentivize employers to train new workers. Repealing licensure laws will help the unemployed find new jobs. Cutting red tape will help spur new business creation. And killing the payroll tax, which takes 30 percent of your first dollar earned, will help incentivize people to get back to work after their industries die out.”

    Spoken like a true libertarian wannabe, reality be damned.

  3. Apneaman on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 3:57 pm 


  4. Plantagenet on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 4:56 pm 

    Hillary had to be one of the most inept campaigners in US history. Telling coal miners she was going to put them out of work contributed to her losses in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and probably cost her the presidency.

    She lied about so many other things—she should’ve just lied to the coal miners as well.


  5. onlooker on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 5:07 pm 

    the ironic thing is if Civilization is still cohesive and functioning, Coal should make a big comeback. Just now quite yet. So a lying politician what is new.

  6. onlooker on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 5:07 pm 

    not quite

  7. worried for ou future on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 6:57 pm 

    “Innovation gets us from dirty, dangerous, inefficient coal to cleaner, safer, cheaper natural gas”
    I think the water protectors would disagree with fracking natural gas being a solution to cleaner cheaper anything

  8. Sissyfuss on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 7:14 pm 

    Slightly OT but the only oxymoron larger than “Clean Coal” is “President Trump”.

  9. makati1 on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 7:24 pm 

    But Sissy, a casino manager is exactly what is needed in the Failing States of Amerika. Not a war hawk. It’s fun to watch the fox in the chicken coop.

  10. Sissyfuss on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 7:28 pm 

    Well Mak, he’s really good at managing bankruptcies also so we got that going for us.

  11. Sissyfuss on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 7:34 pm 

    Damn Boat, we shouldn’t send back our I’ll eagles. We should nurse them back to health. They are our national bird, you Communist!

  12. rockman on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 8:15 pm 

    “What’s driving the coal industry into bankruptcy…”. A big fat f*cking lie that some here, like most dumb ass citizens, believe. LOL

    Some coal companies might be going bankrupt. But the coal industry yearly revenue has been increasing as of the latest stats:

    From 2009 thru 2014 y-o-y revenue has increased from $45.5 BILLION to 46 BILLION. Not huge gains but consistant during the time the current presidency has been taking up climate change. Much of those gains has been the result of the huge surge during President Obama’s second term during which the US reached a record monthly volume in 2013: Jan 2010…3.9 mm stons/month and Jan 2013…13.8 mm stons/month. And majority of those record volumes coming from western leases owned by the federal govt.

    Recently it has been competition from Australia that has hurt US coal exports and not actions by our govt. In fact, President Obama tried to make our exports more competitive by authorizing 3 new coal export terminals on the west coast. But local resistance forced him to switch to Texas where he expedited expansion of our coal export terminals. As a result Texas has just begun, for the first time ever, exporting Colorado coal. Coal transported GHG emitting diesel trains.

    Even though our happy family here is much more knowledgeable in energy matters then the general public it still amazes me how many buy into the “King Coal is dead” bullsh*t. All President-elect Trump needs to do to help the coal industry is to just continue the current govt policies. The funniest part is that the new administration will probably steal the credit earned by the currernt administration which has avoided bragging about its support of coal.

  13. rockman on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 8:24 pm 

    Looker – So coal will “make a come back”? I know you’re not dumb so such statements like this and from others here confuse me. Read what I just posted about the US coal industry. And globally:

    “Is coal production declining? No, far from it. Since the start of the 21st century, coal production has been the fastest-growing global energy source. While provisional IEA figures show a slight decrease in 2014 driven by a decline in China and some exceptional circumstances such as unrest in Ukraine, the IEA sees global supply increasing at an average rate of 0.6% through 2020. This incremental growth stems from OECD non-member economies, the Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2015 reports, while falling output in OECD Americas and OECD Europe leads to an overall decline in OECD production despite increased volume from OECD Asia Oceania.

    What about coal consumption? Global coal consumption increased by more than 70% from 4 600 Mt in 2000 to an estimated 7 876 Mt in 2013, and at a 4.2% annual rate, coal was the fastest-growing primary energy source in the ten years through 2013. But demand growth has slowed of late. Preliminary data for 2014 showed the first actual decline since the 1990s, falling 0.9%; but the main driver of that result was a reported drop in Chinese demand that is based on preliminary data. Indeed, the IEA expects slowed but continued coal demand growth, with the Medium-Term Coal Report 2015 seeing a 0.8% increase through 2020.”

  14. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 8:30 pm 

    What is 2:11, a Bible verse?

    Trump already showed he isn’t providing any jobs, because his ‘Carrier deal’ is a total scam. Most of the jobs are still going away … the government paid concessions to Carrier to make them more profit … and there are 1000 other companies just like Carrier.

    It’s just a scam propaganda story that Trump can beat his chest with. Since the dumb stupid working class can’t tell up from down, they will fall for it. They already did.

  15. onlooker on Sun, 4th Dec 2016 8:30 pm 

    Thanks for correcting me Rock on that glaring mistake. I was saw what is then grossly erroneous information, haha the internet abounds with it. I also just assumed coal was receding. Always good to get the real scoop from one who is in the front lines.

  16. Cloggie on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 4:23 am 

    The Newsweek globalists still haven’t put up with the devastating loss of their candidate, boohoo.

    What is “clean coal” and is it technically feasible? Coal-fired power plants contribute a third of all man-made carbon emissions in the United States. The goal, though, is to gasify the coal and separate the carbon — before capturing and burying it. While such technologies have been demonstrated, they have yet to have much commercial appeal.

    Introduce a long overdue carbon tax and there you have your “commercial appeal”.

    No doubt, the coal gasification technology is the industry’s best hope of a resurrection… But if the objective is to capture and bury carbon, then coal gasification is perhaps the solution… Coal gasification plants scrub the mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide before they would separate the remaining byproducts: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which could be used to power everything from cars to power plants.
    Underground Coal Gasification 3D Animation

    The best long term solution are renewables, but in the mean time we have enough UCG-based energy to carry out the transition. The beauty is that UCG can be done at sea (at least in Western Europe) and stay away from aquifers.

    The amount of work from UCG will be rather limited. The best way to solve unemployment is to send women home so they can have their 2.1 replacement level children and dedicate their lives raising them responsibly, rather than wasting their time behind a computer or in a mine shaft or on a carrier. Men can do that.

  17. Cloggie on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 4:32 am 

    Another UCG production video:

  18. Davy on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 5:39 am 

    If we have a collapse process and it may be slow or fast this return to a traditional male/female coexistence will be a default trend. This will not be a matter of sexism nor unfair. This will be a matter of returning to our core values of small communities with traditional family units. These family units will include the grandparents. This is how you devolve and it is necessary and will happen if allowed. It will happen because it is the best way to utilize human sapience and shared human abilities. Women have better skills at the traditional activities of women and men have theirs. This is not to say there will not be or should not be women in positions of leadership and in other vocations. There should be because there are and have been very talented women that have made a difference but that will be the exception to the trend. Sapience does not favor a sex but it does manifest itself differently in the sexes. We will need both types of wisdom and life skills to navigate the destructive decline ahead. It is those cultures that will find balance of the sexes and embrace a traditional family unit that will be more adaptable in the collapse process.

    I am now living a collapse process mentality. I am trying to adapt to a postindustrial lifestyle while I live in our current modern civilization. It is a hobby that is an experiment that is a way of life. I am completely convinced at least from my perspective we must have family farms with small communities together in the food raising process. I am lightly mechanized now and I have the benefits of modern civilization for many of my needs. I am aware of many of those needs that will need to be filled locally and by a family and small community. Many home economics needs must be taken over by women. Men will be relegated to activities that require more heavy lifting. I am focusing on farming because the majority of the population will have farming as a default. There are other types of communities of course. We will still need a craft industry and manufacturing found in small towns. There is nothing revolutionary about these ideas. What is revolutionary is the thought of the return to what was rejected most will face when confronted with the reality of what they must do.

    The old men and women of the family and community will have to contribute with stored wisdom. They will have to assist where possible because everyone will by necessity have to contribute. There will not be retirement as we know it today. The key to this type of arrangement is the proper combination of skills and wisdom of sexes and ages with other families in a common goals. The young will have to be educated by these arrangements. If we can’t get to these arrangements then forget about subsistence farming and its more advanced permaculture taking up the slack of the decline of modern industrial agriculture. We will be hungry and die relatively fast if we are not careful.

    These necessary and required changes are not happening now because we are still in the destructive change of modernism. The social narrative frowns on this and it has no respect as an alternative. The momentum of modernism is stalling and at some point in this stalling of growth into collapse the social narrative must embrace what I just mentioned. It must be an expression of our sapience as a good and proper way of life. We can take beneficial modernism with us but we must combine and innovate that into the traditional way of life of our ancestors who were closer to the nutrient cycle without fossil fuels and industrialization.

    If we are lucky enough to devolve slowly enough some of us will and can make this transition. The unfortunate situation is this will not work for everyone. Maybe we can do this with a population of 3BIL by combining modern technics into this devolution. Eventually without fossil fuels and modern economy we will need to be bellow 1BIL. I am not sure the process. Timing and degree of change ahead are impossible to pinpoint beyond a range of possibilities. The location of these changes likewise depend on so many unknowns. Some areas will enter this process before others maybe. We may all fall off the cliff together quickly. What I am completely certain about is the direction I mentioned as our only hope.

    What is more unsettling is climate change may even render this a short term step. Modern agriculture with stable farm communities may become unworkable eventually. We will then become seminomadic hunter gathers or maybe more accurately scavengers of a hardscrabble existence in small bands of desperates. In the meantime this is the baby step we must take at least some of us.

    Maybe I am wrong about all of this. I hope I am delusional and many of us can continue to live relatively comfortable lives in modernism and I in my fantasy of a radically different future. In that case then I am just an old man talking at the wall or in this case a screen expressing digital wisdom or lack of.

  19. rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 7:33 am 

    Looker – I think much of the erroneous Internet info isn’t intentional but a result of laziness. Someone puts out some bullsh*t and it gets republished by scores without fact checking. I don’t follow coal nor am I very interested in it. But it only takes 60 seconds to pull actual data from credible sources. Add laziness with a desire to bash fossil fuels and you get especially bad reporting.

    For instance why haven’t we’ve seen a very big recent story about Australian coal repeated ad nauseum: Since last summer Aussie coal has almost doubled in price increasing from $50/ston to over $90/ston. We had mucho stories a couple of years ago when coal prices fell indicating the “death of King Coal” as it was reported. IMHO it’s because it doesn’t fit the “we are getting control over climate change” rhetoric especially from the greenies. Which is just the opposite of what we should expect IMHO. They should be shouting about this price surge from the rooftops. Again I focus much more on Texas lignite then Aussie coal but when I saw the headline a few weeks ago I took the 60 seconds to find an update.

    Same thing about the POTUS expediting the expansion of Texas coal export facilities and the first load of Colorado coal ever to shipped out of the Lone Star state. But lots of MSM stories about local resistance to President Obama’s plan to build 3 east coast coal export facilities. It’s easy to understand why you didn’t see big stories from the MSM about that new coal development: it would dent the armor of the “greenest” POTUS in history.

    And we couldn’t have that come out about the man how saved us from the horrors of a SEVENTH oil pipeline crossing the US/Canadian border, could we? LOL.

  20. rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 7:40 am 

    Cloggie – FYI: “Kemper Power Plant: Home to 6000 engineers, scientists & others creating a first-of-its-kind clean-tech, green-tech, clean-coal future in Mississippi.”

    Of course behind schedule and over budget a bit but such is the fate of “pioneers”. But did get a lot of financial support from President Obama.

  21. Cloggie on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 8:54 am 

    There, 7,000 workers extract nearly 500 million tons of coal each year – an average of roughly 66,000 tons of coal for each worker.

    These greedy 7,000 miners should be ashamed of themselves with these obscene productivity figures like 320 ton/workday, steeling the light of day from

    Picture that in front of your house: 200 big bags full of coal per worker, e-ve-ry day.

    When I was 5 or so I remember that a single kolenkit (coal scuttle, 13 liter) was enough to heat the living room for an entire day:

    They are currently sometimes used as a fifties nostalgia umbrella stand.

    1 present day miner can support 1500 fifties household’s heating requirements, a very essential necessity.

    The beauty of technology.


  22. Cloggie on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 9:26 am 

    Sorry, missed a zero. Should be 15,000 (!) households per worker.

  23. Rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 9:48 am 

    Cloggie – You ever see pictures of the huge excavators and trucks used to strip mine coal? That’s the reason for the high productivity. And do you know why mining companies invested hundreds of $millions in the equipment? The coal miner unions. That big equipment isn’t so much more efficient but saves huge amounts on labor costs by ELIMINATING COAL MINING JOBS. IOW eliminating a lot of good paying union jobs. The miners who still have jobs are lucky that President Obama has greatly expanded coal exports from those western govt leases. Did you know that 40% of US coal production comes from federal leases the “greenest POTUS in history” has managed for the last 8 years?

  24. Boat on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 10:41 am 

    Rock, clog

    The overall picture in the US shows imports, exports and production of coal down and dropping like a rock.

  25. Cloggie on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 10:57 am 

    @Rockman – tell me about it, I am living 81 car km away from one of the largest open cast brown coal (lignite) mines in the world:

    Google maps:


    1 wheel element is the size of a car. The entire machine is operated (I think) by 1 one man plus one supervisor frantically driving around the machine. That’s more like 2 big bags per second.

  26. Kenz300 on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 1:37 pm 

    Wind and solar energy with battery storage are the future of energy production.

    They are safer, cleaner and CHEAPER.

    Cheaper Wins.

    Solar Cost Hits World’s New Low, Half the Price of Coal

  27. rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 3:15 pm 

    Boat – “The overall picture in the US shows imports, exports and production of coal down and dropping like a rock.”. No, US coal production hasn’t dropped like a rock in “the overall picture”…only in the short term picture you’ve cherry picked. As the link below clearly shows US coal production has SOARED in the “overall picture” of the last 50+ years by over 250%. And during that growth period there have been periodic short term decreases. Just as historic low NG prices have brought about recently. Low NG that can’t last indefinantly. What really drives the point home is comparing the UK and US production charts. The UK coal production peaked 100 years ago while the US, in the “overall picture” still looks like we’re building towards a peak despite the recent short term decline. Even with that recent decrease we are still producing more coal then we have in our entire history except for the last few years.

  28. rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 3:22 pm 

    Boat – But if you want to stick with short term cherry picking so be it: since last April to last month US weekly coal production increased 25%.

  29. Thomas on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 3:35 pm 

    In 2015 coal production falls, second year in a row, -3.6%:

    Its possible that peak-coal is already behind us. It depends on what China and India is doing.

  30. rockman on Mon, 5th Dec 2016 9:33 pm 

    Thomas – “Its possible that peak-coal is already behind us.”. So true: one can’t look at monthly, yearly or even decade long trends and be sure you’re past the peak. Look at US oil production: for decades we were sure we left PO behind in the early 70’s. But look how close we came to setting a new peak 40 years later.

    But did you look at my link showing the US coal production curve? Compare it to the long plateau followed by y-o-y decline of US oil production. The coal production curve doesn’t even indicate we’ve entered a plateau phase let along a long term decline.

    And then back to my point about NG prices. Lots of NG, priced at less than $3/MCF, replacing coal in recent years. And then what happens when NG price double or triple as they did not too many years ago?

    But for sake of argument let’s say US coal production peaked in 2013 and will continuously decline for the next 20 to 30 years. Can we rule out it won’t surge back in 2045 just like our oil production did?

  31. Cloggie on Tue, 6th Dec 2016 3:57 am 

    Its possible that peak-coal is already behind us.

    It looks likes the peak-oil story is going to be repeated with peak-coal.

    The ASPO-2000 crowd predicted that peak conventional oil would occur somewhere between 2005-2015. They didn’t see fracking coming.

    After having read Heinberg’s “The Party is Over” in 2005, in an act of irresponsible frivolity, I read in 2012 Heinberg’s:

    There you could read from the author of Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age (1989) that peak coal date could very well occur as early as 2025.

    The ecologist Heinberg made with coal the same titanic mistake as with oil: completely and majestically ignoring technology. Just like your average layman assumes that the only way to acquire oil is by sucking it up like coca-cola from a glass with a straw, the only way to acquire coal is for heroic black-faced miners to crawl through mine shafts and hammer their way through the underground, risking their own lives.

    But that’s soo 20th century. The reality is that there are still enormous quantities of coal in the earth’s crust, waiting to be exploited:

    Trillions of tons under the tiny North Sea alone. Compare that with what humanity has consumed so far (oil):

    Estimates vary, but take 1 trillion barrel or 135 million tons. There are still ca 1 trillion barrel of oil left… but who cares about (conventional) peak oil, when there are trillions of tons of coal waiting to be exploited, not by traditional mining, but by underground high tech coal gasification (“clean” coal), with the possibility to pump the residual CO2 back in the earth’s crust (“sequestration”), making old school miners obsolete.

    Everybody who in 2016 worries about fossil fuel depletion should get his head checked.

    We have no depletion problem, not in a long shot, we have an environmental problem only, that can be solved with renewable energy over the coming 30-50 years.

  32. Cloggie on Tue, 6th Dec 2016 4:13 am 

    That should be 135 billion ton oil consumed so far…

    The lower estimates of coal under the North Sea is 3 trillion ton, or 23 times as much (in weight) as planetary cumulative consumed oil to date.

    In other worlds, the God-Emperor is being modest with his 1000 years coal. But the Germans always had a fascination with 1000

  33. Davy on Tue, 6th Dec 2016 6:20 am 

    The titanic mistake is to assume technology exists in a vacuum that is transcendent from economic and environmental realities. Techno-optimist are steeped in denial and delusion because they are fooled into thinking technology is self-replicating. They fail to realize that it takes an economy to realize technology and it takes a healthy ecosystem to realize an economy.

    In the short term this delusional transcendence is possible because the two forces operate at different speeds and levels. Yet, the underlying reality is technology is nothing without a healthy economy because technology must be realized through increased complexity and energy. Technology does not create energy it utilizes it. If quality energy is not there to be utilized it has no fuel for innovation. If a prize bull is not put on good pasture it will not see its potential. It is not that technology does not have potential it does but what it must have to have potential is a healthy socioeconomic reality.

    When Technology creates more complexity it requires more energy. This idea of energy is more than the physical BTU it is also the abstract of systems and networks. Technology alone is not going to save us. It is a variable and not the equation. In the equation there must be a healthy ecosystem and socio-economic system. Technology and its sister efficiency succeed to a point and that point is marginal utility. Marginalism says that both gold and water have value and for different reasons. Pretty obvious with gold and water but with technology it is less obvious. Technology and efficiency will no longer be embraced when hard limits are confronted from necessity. Choice is a luxury of growth not decline.

    We are very near hard limits and those limits will be economic decline. Money will stop technology in its tracks. People will stop trying to be more efficient when faced with less. The efficiency will be a different kind of innovation which is salvage, cannibalization, and reductionism. We are near a point of redux and the revival will be simplicity of survival within limits of less. All the ingredients are near leaving techno-optimism to fall flat on its ass as it must. Our common survival depends on it. We have scarce resources that cannot be squandered on frivolous of human hubris of exceptionalism. We will soon feel the sobriety of decline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *