How Much Coal Do We Have? Let’s Do the Math

Posted by Joe Lucas at 6:17 pm, August 11, 2009

You’ve probably heard me say that coal is our most abundant fuel. But just how abundant is it?

Well, the United States has more coal than any other fuel. A quarter of all of the known coal in the entire world is here in America, and large coal deposits can be found in 38 states. In fact, we’ve got more coal than the entire Middle East has oil.

Wyoming is America’s biggest coal-producing state. (Click here to learn more about the Black Thunder Coal Mine, which all by itself provides 8 percent of America’s coal supply.)

At the current rate of consumption, we are capable of meeting domestic demand for more than 200 years.

To put 200 years in perspective, that’s longer than we have had electricity as we know it today.

Here’s the math:

• The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the U.S. had recoverable reserves of 262 billion short tons of coal as of January 1, 2008, the latest period for which data are available. See documentation (PDF).

• By computation, based on current consumption of 1,125.2 million short tons per year, those reserves of 262 billion short tons would last more than 230 years. See documentation.

If you ever hear a debate about this topic, now you know the facts.

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