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When will coal be too expensive to mine?

Coal Stock Pile

A study released Wednesday says minable coal will run out much sooner than expected. The report comes from an environmental organization and the author claims it’s science based and not politically driven.

The report is published by Clean Energy Action, Colorado based environmental organization that works to push the transition from fossil fuels to other energy sources.  

Director of Research and Policy, Leslie Glustrom says the United States is rapidly approaching the end of the era where coal can be mined at a profit. In fact, the report says it could be as soon as 20 years.

The study criticizes a federal study by the Energy Information Agency that says that America still has 200 years of mining left by saying  only a small part of what remains underground is financially viable.

“What they’re calling reserves should really be called resources," Glustrom said. "It’s coal that’s in the ground but it’s buried too deeply or it’s otherwise in accessible."

"It can’t be mined at a cost that allows the coal companies to make a profit. If the coal companies can’t make a profit, they can’t mine coal.”

The report says America hit a peak in production in 2008. Pennsylvania has endured the largest decline in coal production since then falling more than 80 percent. West Virginia's coal production declined the 9th highest at close to 32 percent.

Glustrom argues this isn’t your typical ‘bust’ cycle in the industry. She says economics and science are playing the greatest factor in a declining market.

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