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October 16, 2005



I suspect the demand for coal in the US will grow much faster than indicated here. (1) increased use in electricity generation, and (2) as input to Fischer-tropsch processors. However there is a lead time in ramping up both. the coal consumption over the next 5 to 10 years is constrained by what capital plant is already in existence or being built. But beyond that, unless there is sufficient evidence of major global warming to force a reduction of US energy consumption, there is likely to be a massive increase in coal consumption. I do no see what climatic event could persuade the US policy makers to take their foot off the energy peddle


The US has sufficient balance of payments problems that it will soon have to make it's own oil, steel, etc, using it's domestic coal reserves. The will increase the US production of coal and the US is one of the largest users of coal.
Figure on taking about four years to rebuild the industrial infrastructure, because that's how long it took us last time, between December of 1941 and 1945.


The US will not need very much steel (or coal to smelt it) because we've already got huge quantities; most of what we need will continue to come from recycling of scrap. If our material demand moves toward fiber-reinforced plastics in a big way, we might even wind up with a steel surplus as we did with copper when fiber optics replaced it in the telecom industry.

The one thing I see to cut the rise of coal is, ironically, farm policy. We're currently using imported nitrate to grown corn to ferment into motor fuel, which is just ridiculous. We would be better off growing switchgrass or Miscanthus on that land, which gives us a coal-supplement, feedstock for cellulosic ethanol and ruminant fodder.


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