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U.S. coal reserves called uncertain

June 25, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 26

Peabody Energy's Rawhide Mine in Wyoming.
Credit: Peabody Energy

More research into the magnitude and characteristics of U.S. recoverable coal reserves is needed, says a report by the National Research Council, released last week. Although the U.S. probably has 100 years of future coal resources, the report warns that it is impossible to characterize the often-quoted assertion that the U.S. has sufficient coal to last 250 years. The report predicts that coal will become increasing difficult to mine as easily accessible resources are extracted, and it urges greater research into mining reserves. It also recommends more research funding for mine worker safety needs as well as environmental protection and cleanup. It recommends an increase of $144 million a year for coal R&D in these areas. The report focuses on coal research primarily for mining and processing at the urging of coal state Sens. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who requested the report. But the committee notes that coal's future is likely to be determined by global warming and coal-related carbon emissions. The report did not examine research needs in this area, however. The NRC report "Future of Coal R&D" is available at


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