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Global Patsy Australia — largest coal exporter in world — still has 300 years of coal left

Australia must surely be The Global Patsy

Is any country acting so decisively against its own interests?

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We, the Global Crash Test Dummies of Renewable Energy, have the fourth largest known reserves of coal in the world. We have so much coal we can keep digging it up at the current rate for the next 294 years (assuming we don’t discover more, which we will)1. If we didn’t export three quarters of our coal, but used it all ourselves, it could power Australia for the next 1,000 years. (But we’d miss the money– better to sell the stuff before nukes make it worthless).

We have so much more coal than we need, most years we are the world’s largest exporter of coal.[2] Indeed, Australia contributes fully one third of the entire global coal export trade. (Three other countries, China, India and the US — dig up more than we do, but they use it themselves.)

Coal also makes up 3% of our entire GDP, employs near 50,000 people, is one of our top two exports, and brought in $54 billion dollars last year.[3]

If any nation was going to ask hard questions about the need to abandon coal it should be us. Instead, our leaders (bar Abbott) trip over themselves in the rush to sell out the national interests. All for the glorious pursuit of symbolic achievements in planetary air conditioning.

Our industrial competitors beam with joy as they pat us on the back, praise our greenness, and burn our coal.

Coal is not dying in the rest of the world either

The US and Russia have about 400 years of coal left at current production but China only 70. Countries with lower reserves are Indonesia (59 years) and the UK (17 theoretical years) which is as good as “run out”. The world as an average has 150 years left.  All of this is just a best estimate based on assumptions that no one will discover more coal, and nor will they use more (or less) than they do currently. But you get the idea.


These are the countries with the most coal

EIA, Graph, Map, Coal reserves by country.

EIA, Graph, Map, Coal reserves by country.

These are the countries digging it up

Coal production, Map, EIA, country.

Coal production, Map, EIA, country.


These are the countries burning it up

These are the countries exporting it

Worldwide coal exports, graph, EIA, 2015.

No end to coal:

We will never run out of coal because sooner or later we will go nuclear, and sometime people will figure out fusion. No one will bother digging out the last coal. It will truly be a stranded asset then. We should use our coal now, while it’s still worth something.


[1^]BP Energy Statistics 2017

[Backed up here: BP Statistical review 2017. h/t Anna]

[2^] EIA – Australian coal production

[3^] Austrade

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