THERE IS COAL IN OUR FUTURE


| July/August 1978



Coal

108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940

In one way or another, coal has been receiving a great amount of attention lately. And, for good reason. We are becoming very concious of our massive imports of fuel from overseas with all of the implications that this can have. You may recall the series of advertisements in which two quizical Arabs were looking at a sign that read, 'We have more coal than the Arabs have oil, let's use it.' But, depending upon one's background, the thought of returning to massive amounts of coal consumption can raise specters of doubt.

Most of us have had some exposure to the effects of wanton exploitation of our natural resources. Even if it were only through newspapers and TV we have seen the devestation of uncontrolled strip mining or the darkness at noon from poor combustion in large boilers. We do not wish to return to these conditions and we do not need to if we will but take the time and effort to avoid such consequences. There are no easy answers, however, only logical choices. And in order to make these choices we need to be informed.

That is just what I would like to do now. First, though, let me say that I am not an 'expert' on the uses of coal. You know what an 'expert' is don't you. A guy with a two sandwich size briefcase more than a hundred miles from home. Rather, I have had to work with some of these problems and therefore set out to bring together some background information which I would like to share with you.

Let us begin by taking a look at just what coal deposits we have and where they are located. For this it is convenient to look at a map of the 'lower 48' of these United States. We will check out Alaska later. Our deposits can be placed in four locations or 'provinces'; eastern, western, central and gulf coast. If we add up everything over which the Stars and Stripes fly we have coal deposits that have been estimated to be about two and a half million-million tons. That's a big number. Try it this way: 2,500,000,000,000. In fact it is so big that I am not going to try to differentiate between the various qualifications; that is, estimated, or proven, or metric or short tons. Its a lot of coal.

Of all of these vast deposits it can be said that the eastern coals generally represent quality and the western ones make up for it in quantity. For example, in the Fort Union region of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas we find the largest single deposit of coal. It is estimated to be a bit over a million-million tons. The Green River basin has something around seven hundred thousand-million tons and Appalachia comes in third with about five hundred thousand-million.