From the Famously Failed Prediction Files: "Nobody Will Be Using Coal in 2017"

Guest post by David Middleton


  • In the midst of a coal shortage in 1917, one writer predicted that solar energy would replace coal by 2017.
  • Coal is still very much in use, but perhaps his premonition was just a few decades short of the target. Solar power is growing at such a rate that we won’t have to wait another 100 years for the prediction to come true.


In the course of a century, people made a lot of predictions about the future of technology.

Some were right—like H.G. Wells who, in 1903, described metal-hulled warships on land that could be considered the precursor to military tanks today; or George Orwell’s vision of 1984 (written in 1949), where the world was monitored by an interconnected web of security cameras; even John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, who wrote his version of 2010 back in 1969, and it basically described the reality of 2013.

Others were way off—like Ken Olsen who said no one would ever want a computer in their home back in 1977. Or the President of the Michigan Savings Bank who said horses were here to stay and automobiles would be nothing but a fad.

Some, however, foresaw a future that stood at the cusp of possibility; like the writer who wrote a piece for the Lincoln Evening Journal called Looking Forward. In it, he describes 2017 as a world that is no longer dependent on coal for energy. The author envisioned a future where technology would be able to harvest energy from the sun and run it through pipes for electricity.

Obviously, we’re not quite there yet.



The rest of the article is just a bunch of nonsensical babble about climate change and solar power.  However, the irony of the “In Brief” bullet points is simply priceless: Including a future failed prediction in an article about a past failed prediction!

Coal is still very much in use, but perhaps his premonition was just a few decades short of the target. Solar power is growing at such a rate that we won’t have to wait another 100 years for the prediction to come true.



This is what Data laughing at you looks like.

Three fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—have provided more than 80% of total U.S. energy consumption for more than 100 years. In 2015, fossil fuels made up 81.5% of total U.S. energy consumption, the lowest fossil fuel share in the past century. In EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 Reference case projections, which reflect current laws and policies, that percentage declines to 76.6% by 2040. Policy changes or technology breakthroughs that go beyond the trend improvements included in the Reference case could significantly change that projection.

In 2015, the renewable share of energy consumption in the United States was its largest since the 1930s at nearly 10%. The greatest growth in renewables over the past decade has been in solar and wind electricity generation.Liquid biofuels have also increased in recent years, contributing to the growing renewable share of total energy consumption.


In EIA’s Reference case projection, petroleum consumption remains similar to current levels through 2040, as fuel economy improvements and other changes in the transportation sector offset growth in population and travel. Coal consumption continues to decline, especially in the electric power sector. Natural gas consumption increases in the industrial sector and the electric power sector.

Some electric fuels, such as nuclear and hydroelectric, remain relatively flat in the Reference case, with little change in capacity or generation through 2040. Biomass, which includes wood as well as liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, remain relatively flat, as wood use declines and biofuel use increases slightly. In contrast, wind and solar are among the fastest-growing energy sources in the projection, ultimately surpassing biomass and nuclear, and nearly exceeding coal consumption in the Reference case projection by 2040.




Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Annual Energy Outlook 2016

Based the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s, Monthly Energy Review, Annual Energy Outlook 2016, it looks as if coal will still be in use well into the 22nd Century…



Of course, the EIA’s forecast included Obama’s soon-to-be-erased Clean Power Plan.

And the EIA forecast is just for these tenuously United States. The rest of the world will also continue to burn coal..


Wind and solar won’t be providing 85% of the world’s electricity in 2040. Coal will still be generating twice as much electricity as wind and solar. Source: ExxonMobil

Wind and solar won’t be providing 85% of the world’s electricity in 2040 and coal will still be generating twice as much electricity as wind and solar.

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167 thoughts on “From the Famously Failed Prediction Files: "Nobody Will Be Using Coal in 2017"

  1. Coal has peaked and is in decline though…
    And by 2050 the EU intends to be on 80% renewables… Hawaii and Seden will be 100% by then.

    • The EU could get to 80% renewables. All it would have to do is build this much generating capacity and generate regardless of need. Then claim you are running off it.
      In fact what you are doing is running a conventional grid with renewable on the side as a minor adjunct.
      Don’t ask how much renewable, what percent. Ask how much emissions have fallen. And take a look at Germany. Or China.
      You can install as much as you want of renewable, but the emissions don’t fall, because the renewable is a sort of useless spare wheel.
      The problem is dispatchability and intermittency. Well, the other problem is denial.

    • The odds of the EU ceasing to exist by 2050 are probably higher than it being 80% renewable energy.

      • Indeed.
        Reaching 80% renewable seems a sure recipe for self-destruction to me, while a collapse would help to reach this aim.

      • paqyfelyc
        Are you suggesting the EU collapse sends Continental Europe back to the – say – Bronze Age?
        80% renewable – wood, and some solar whilst panels still generate.
        And any guess of the ‘EU 27’ by then? Currently CIA has that at [EU-UK (Brexit, yes)] = about 449 million.
        80% renewables and I think we’re in some watermelon dream.
        Maybe half the current number – I guess [only a guess, folks. Your guess is equally valid]. Might be a quarter [might be].
        But many sick, old, infertile through starvation – so declining.
        GDP equal to Myanmar. Perhaps.
        I may not be here in 2040 to see.
        And it would be good not to see the Europe of Homer, Diesel, Cicero, Plato, Dyson, Linnaeus, Kant, Monet, Cuvier, Titian, Brueghel – and so many others – debased to scavenging and subsistence economy.
        But it probably won’t be that bad.
        Real science – and a desire for self-preservation – should (I hope) see to that.

      • Ah – the extra-global warming has a place. [Anthropogenic? Burnt souls . . . . so it m i g h t be !!]
        Thank you for reminding us of that, Eustace.

    • Coal is declining because frakking has made natural gas less expensive.
      That will change over time.
      One constant with Griffie, any trend that is moving in a way he likes, is predicted to continue forever.

      • Exactly. On the graph the projected decrease in coal consumption exactly matches the projected increase in natural gas consumption. If natural gas quits being cheap, coal will rise again. For most of my life coal reserves have been measured in hundreds of years. When petroleum and natural gas are gone, coal will still be there. After that … thorium. 🙂

      • “Coal is declining because frakking has made natural gas less expensive.
        That will change over time.”
        Why will it change? Frakking technology keeps improving.

      • Chris: Try reaching out to the real world. For once.
        1) The coal industry is also working on reducing costs.
        2) There’s only so much gas out there. Eventually it will start to run out. When that happens gas prices will rise.
        PS: I’m making no predictions on when it will happen, be it a couple of decades or a couple of centuries.

      • While there is no genuinely correct spelling for the contraction of “hydraulic fracturing,” “frakking” is wronger than the commonly used “fracking.”
        Why will gas prices go up?
        The low prices over the past few years have fueled demand, tempered drilling and have finally begun to draw down storage…

        Natural gas prices rise as inventory decreases
        January 24, 2017
        Natural gas prices are expected to rise over the next two years, as colder winter weather drives up demand for natural gas and average withdrawals from storage are the highest they have been in years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
        The Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $2.51 per million British thermal unites in 2016, and analysts expect it to rise over the next two years, to an average $3.55 in 2017 and $3.73 in 2018.
        The hot summer of 2016 set the rise in natural gas prices in motion, as demand for natural gas decreased inventory in storage. Then, colder weather this winter spiked demand for natural gas, along with an increase in natural-gas fired power plants.
        For the past three weeks, net withdrawals of natural gas from storage have been more than 200 billion cubic feet, more than the five-year average of net withdrawal at 170 billion cubic feet. The amount of natural gas being taken out of storage is higher than average in most regions around the country, except on the West Coast.

        And lots of natural gas-fired powe plants are being built…

        Capacity for natural gas-generated electricity expected to rise
        January 30, 2017
        The U.S. Department of Energy expects the capacity of natural gas-fired power plants to grow over the next two years, despite rising costs of natural gas.
        The use of natural gas to generate electricity continues to grow while the use of coal declines, as it has over the past five years, according to the Energy Department. Low natural gas prices in 2016 and federal environmental regulations meant to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants have driven the country’s shift to natural-gas.
        Most of the nation’s new natural gas-fired power plants are getting built in Texas and the Mid-Atlantic states, where the country’s biggest natural gas shale plays are.
        Last year, natural gas prices were the lowest since 1999, a price plunge in part driven by technology that unlocked previously unreachable reserves of natural gas in shale formations.. The Energy Department expects natural gas prices to rise in 2017 and 2018, as demand during a colder than average winter depletes natural gas in storage.

        But, then again… “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

    • Funny, so wet dreams look like. But, you are right in remote areas of New Zealand there were already 50 years ago lead batteries, small windmills on the roof and electricity from 9-12 mornings and from 15-17 afternoons. But in those remote areas there were people who had nothing to work, were old, and lived from their retirement. No one else.

    • Hawaii renewables are less than 15% of total current energy usage,
      There is no possible way they can get to 100% by 2050, unless they invent solar airliners.
      As for the mythical land of Seden, I’ve never been there, is it possibly located somewhere near Atlantis?

      • Considering that Hawaii cannot support its population without massive imports and exporting their trash, even if they managed to get to 100% “renewables”, their environmental impact would still be terrible.
        Actually, one might be able to argue that their impact would be worse, as they would no longer be contributing (or at least contributing less) CO2 to green the planet. For shame.

      • Let’s not forget tourism. How might people get there and back renewably? Bio jet fuel made from pineapples?

      • Tom in Co
        Seden – a possible mistype – O can do they – for Sedan, a French city that invented, or popularised, or had a name linked to the Latin for ‘seated’ – the Sedan Chair, a variation on the Turkish tahtırevan.
        This link is to the great God Wiki, which even I can edit; it may, perhaps, still be slightly informative: –
        Auto – still on two feet.

    • Good one, Skankhunt42. Given that there is approximately 100 years of remaining coal reserves left on the planet, I don’t see us moving away from using it any time soon. These so-called renewables, all they do is renew the bank accounts of those who control their construction, and the end-user pays for it.
      Crawl back into your hole, troll.

    • I would be interested to know why Griff, or anyone else for that matter, thinks calling something ‘renewable’ makes it better.
      I suspect that advocates anything have never bothered to read any life cycle analysis for producing power. The three most important factors of LCA are location, location, location.
      I have been making electricity with steam since 1971. Our job in the power industry is to make electricity when and where people need it.
      Notice time and location is a key factor.
      In the US, we are required to produce power with insignificant environmental impact. We can and we do. It is hard to beat insignificant. Therefore, protecting the envoroment is not a justification for ‘renewables’.

    • Griff / occupie:
      Griff on January 31, 2017 at 5:55 am
      Coal has peaked and is in decline though…
      And by 2050 the EU intends to be on 80% renewables… Hawaii and Seden will be 100% by then.

    • Peak coal will be in about 2070 after which access will drive up the price.

      • Only if current usage continues. If we switch to NG and leave the coal for later, the whole estimate is off. As estimates are notoriously off. Ever had your power bill “estimated” or your income taxes “estimated”? Need I say more?

    • And this and that and in the future and blah, blah, blah. Always move the rabbit just ahead of the greyhounds or they won’t run around the track. Works great with the dogs. Would work great if humans had the same behavior as dogs. Fortunately, many are much smarter and realize the rabbit can never, ever be caught.

    • I wonder how many forests will have to be chopped to achieve this dream. I doubt that every spare inch of the Uk with a turbine on it would provide any serious source of reliable energy.

    • Griff says, “Coal has peaked and is in decline though…”
      Only in your own little world Griff …. meanwhile, in the real world where I live;
      Coal has remained the powerhouse for the port, representing 96 per cent of the total trade in 2016. Coal exports jumped by 2.2 per cent to a new record of just under 161.4 million tonnes. In 2015, the port recorded 158 million tonnes in coal exports. The 2016 trade value of coal alone was almost $15.28 billion. 
      The strong 2016 figures saw the year end on a high, with a new monthly record for coal exports of 15.94 million tonnes in December.

      Newcastle Herald, Jan 18, 2015

    • “Coal has peaked and is in decline though”
      There was a slight down-turn in China, coal prices dropped.
      But now that coal price is sky-rocketing.
      Once this anti-science anti-CO₂ stupidity is gone, coal will be king again, because it is the cheapest, most efficient, most widely available, with the massive added benefit of adding carbon back into the carbon cycle.

    • Remove CAGW’s (Obama’s?) “War on Coal”…where’s the peak? And let’s not forget Bill Clinton’s declaring that area in Utah with a large deposit of “clean coal” a national something or other so that it couldn’t compete with the Lippo Group’s deposit.
      True, natural gas is a genuine competitor of coal, but remove political and “Green” motivated Government regulations and restrictions and the “peak” for coal is way off in the distance.
      PS Griff, what powers the grid where you live? “Renewable”? What kind of backup does it have? Are all of the wires of your grid disconnected from coal fired plants? If not, why haven’t you climbed a tower and cut them?
      Not quite ready to meet reality?

    • The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And hell is a good place to send warmists and I hear it is fuelled by coal. Keep those fires burning Satan.

    • I remember being told in 2012 that oil had peaked.
      I must see some more evidence of this wolf you keep crying about before I can take you seriously.

    • Oil, gas and coal (plus nuclear) will dominate until a truly revolutionary energy source is developed. It will not be wind or solar. We may have to wait another hundred years or so, but it will happen.

    • Dear Griff
      Right, a few more refugees and they will be getting most of their energy from Camel dung patties.

  2. Yogi Berra may have said “Its tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” but he was not the originator. The saying is a Dutch proverb sometimes attributed to the physicist Nils Bohr but the true origin is lost.

  3. But both are leading the world in the fight against climate change, and are doing this by increasing their emissions dramatically as well as increasing coal use.
    Yes, you have to be a climate scientist to understand that one. Takes years, no decades of study. Its a whole different language.

  4. Those graphs in regard to renewables are wrong, none of them are an independent energy source, they are redundant sources to a reliable source.

  5. Given the amount of coal in the world why don’t they focus on burning it cleanly? A pure oxygen combustion at a high enough temperature gives as little pollutants as natural gas. Given the number of countries that have coal it will be used. Let’s use it cleanly. First step is to stop classifying CO2 as a pollutant.

    • Ever heard of nitrogen oxides??
      Pure oxygen combustion is only a fantasy — combustion in the real world is done with air which contains nitrogen — and is the reason that Diesel trucks now have tanks of urea — to remove the nitrogen that has been oxidized from the exhaust.

      • So, remove the Nitrogen (and water vapor, CO2, and other trace gases) from the Air as it is suckered into the power plant. Pure oxygen that will let the coal burn hotter and cleaner, with no heat wasted warming up atmospheric gasses.
        No, I have no idea how hard it would be to do. I assume very hard, as no one is doing it yet. But worth looking into. Technology is always advancing, and you never know when something will change the game.

    • “First step is to stop classifying CO2 as a pollutant”
      Whoa, then how can they justify a carbon tax?

    • Google supercriticalfactsheet.pdf for info on existing coal plants approaching 45% efficiency for electrical generation. That is above regular natural gas plant efficiencies.

  6. How many fossil fuel power plants have been displaced by solar and wind in the U.S.? Don’t know of any but could be wrong.

      • If there is any (large) spot on the globe where FF and nuclear power plants have been displaced by wind and solar without FF or nuclear backup then then they should stand out from space.
        Kinda’ like North Korea does.

    • It has been done in South Australia. They had a state-wide power failure. In fact, it was so successful that Victoria plans to follow suit.

    • Didn’t South Australia shut down and dismantle their coal burning power plants. Wasn’t the blackout problem earlier caused by them not having any backup in state when their neighbors cut off their electricity to save their own plants.

      • I thought it was because an interconnection was asked to draw more power than it was rated for after the wind turbines shut down. The connection shut down and took out all electricity. Maybe it was to save the electricity of those who still had lights on, but it seems it was more due to the lack of capacity and overloading a connection. An electrical reality. You can only draw so much power before the circuits shut down.

  7. Optimistic solar power contribution statistics are always political, i.e. false. The statistics are based on their own inflated “design capacity”, which is never actually realized. Even these inflated results only continue as long as corrupt governments subsidize the economically parasitic solar power companies. These companies always lose money because their operations and labor force consume more energy than they can ever produce. Since energy is their only economic product, they always spend more money than they take in, unless they are subsidized. Their environmental record is even worse. Their operations destroy wildlife habitat, and they produce highly toxic rare-earth metal wastes that pollute the environment. There is nothing “green” or “economic” about solar power.

    • Mike is lying for dramatic affect. ‘wildlife habitat’ give me a break. Is that like moles in your front yard?
      All methods of producing power have environmental cost which is offset be the benefits of using electricity for such thing sewage treatment.
      The key performance indicator is impact/kwh. Nobody is building Chernobyl type reactors or 70s wind turbines anymore.

      • That would be like the desert tortoise, gila monster, etc that are losing habitat to the bird frying solar plants. Only a non-scientist could believe that acres of giant spinning propellers and heat-absorbing glass panels could “not affect wildlife”.
        It doesn’t matter if you make wind turbines kill 50% less birds and then put 500% more turbines over what were up in the 70s.
        Then there would be the hypocrisy of slaughtering eagles with wind turbines while fining Native Americans for killing one eagle for a religious ceremony. Wildlife is valuable to greens only as long as it blocks what they oppose. The ESA blocks farming but not skyscraper height spinning propellers. That is, quite frankly, insane.

      • In addition to the habitat lost directly to solar panels and wind farms (as mentioned by Sheri), rare earth open pit mines destroy millions of acres of wildlife habitat. Lithium is the prime rare earth metal used by both solar and wind power plants. Lithium is also highly toxic, and its waste disposal creates a major environmental problem. All this for erratic, inefficient and unreliable energy production that benefits very few people. The impact/kwh for wind and solar are far and away the worst of any of the power sources.

  8. A quote: Our cities didn’t end up being buried in horse manure (Malthus), the industrial revolution didn’t starve itself out by 1900 because of the shortage of coal (Jevons), we didn’t starve to death by 2000 and run out of mineral resources (Club of Rome, Holdren, Ehrlich) nor did we freeze to death by that date with the imminent man-made new ice age on the way (by the same people). That there are still apparently well-educated persons making such doomster predictions is evidence more of their misfit psychology than the application of sound methods (Hansen, Gore). “Computers” predicted global warming. When no warming occurred, it was renamed global climate change. The whole affair was possibly the biggest hoax ever imposed on gullible folks, that also impoverished all the non-wealthy among us. And made those with political connections ala Al Gore very wealthy.

    • jake:
      I liked your answer! Short, sweet, concise!
      Could you explain to me why My condo insurance renewal
      says, “While the effects of climate change have impacted
      our home insurance rates we still aim to offer excellent savings
      opportunities”? Thanks in advance.
      PS. This is no joke!

    • That there are still apparently well-educated persons making such doomster predictions
      In the late 1970s, Herman Kahn said that over 90% of intellectuals believed that utter nonsense. (I know he said that because he said it to me.)

  9. Middleton ==> Truth be known, we all want petroleum and coal burning to go away as the major sources of [electrical] energy. The are dirty sources of power — in the burning and in the drilling and mining of them.
    The problem being: There is no ready, easy, cheap alternative available today, except nuclear, which is blocked by ill-founded fears (probably stirred up and maintained by vested interest groups and certainly by enviro-nuts).
    If the governments get serious about investing in energy research there will come a breakthrough. All our efforts should be towards seeing that government research funds go towards REAL energy research that will lead to [eventually] that breakthrough.

      • Middleton ==> Your chart must be US only — a list of oil/diesel fired power plants in the world is available at the Global Energy Observatory .
        Oil accounts for 5% of worldwide electrical production, and oil and coal combined accounts for 44% for worldwide electrical production. We don’t want to be burning oil and coal — and need to transition away from it — it will not be easy.
        Asia buys Australian coal because it is a a dense, easily transported energy source. Nat Gas no so much.
        Transitioning to nuclear (new fission or fusion) has always been the only real choice…. how to get there is the question, particularly given the societal opposition to nuclear.

      • The ExxonMobil chart is global. Eyeballing it… petroleum generation looks like ~3-5%.
        I agree that oil isn’t then best fuel for power generation. It’s generally more expensive than coal or natural gas.
        Asia buys quite a lot of LNG from Australia… LNG is not too difficult to transport. The US is also slowly ramping up LNG exports.
        The only “how to get there” is natural gas, if you take coal off the table.
        The “societal opposition to nuclear” is based on a combination of irrational fear of radiation and NIMBY’sm. It is a tough nut to crack.

    • Sorry Kip you are wrong about nuclear power. The only thing limiting nuclear power is cheap fossil fuels.
      Pandering to irrational fear is not a design criteria. The NRC hold public meeting near where new nuke plants are proposed. Local people are happy to have them. The usual suspects come from cities far making the same claims.
      The NRC listens but fear is trumped by science.

      • The only thing limiting nuclear power is cheap fossil fuels.
        Don’t be talking trash, ….. it outs you as being a gullible mimicker of garbage commentary.
        Lawsuits are the limiting factor preventing an increase in nuclear power generation.
        Would you seriously consider building yourself a new house if you knew for a fact that it would take you 10 to 15 years of COSTLY “court battles” just to get a “building permit” approved?

      • Kit P ==> Two nuc plants have been ordered shuttered in the last year — one in California and one in New York.
        Where are the new ones? Name one community that was happy to have a new Nuclear Power plant built in their backyard.
        Science should trump fear — but it does not trump societal pressure.

  10. Here’s my solution:
    * Build a huge international human-hamster-wheel infrastructure in developed nations, whereby the wheels are connected as electric power generators.
    * Establish a United Nations panel to oversee each country’s commitment to run (or walk, … or crawl) on those wheels at given times of the day for a given standard duration.
    * Allow people a chance to get into shape on a schedule that will enable developed countries to phase out fossil fuels for electricity production.
    * Increase the mandated duration of activity on the wheels to a level that will sustain power supplies to meet demand.
    * Limit population density in such a way that more farmland can be created to grow more food to meet the greater caloric expenditure of now more active people. Oh wait, I just killed a lot of the CO2 that would benefit that increased crop demand for more food to feed the human generators. No, wait, I said “developed countries”, so undeveloped countries might still produce enough CO2 fertilizer.
    I’m still working out the details.

  11. It is interesting that coal, oil and natural gas are just so inexpensive right now. The cost per energy generated is just so small.
    Its too bad that solar energy did not work out. But it don’t. You can’t take photons and make electricity on an efficient basis.
    Unless you were a plant many millions of years ago, who took those solar photons and did the all the hard work on this front and left us with an amazing cheap energy source produced initially from solar photons.
    You would have to be a dumbas not to use that gift.

  12. As an engineer, I am very good at predicting the future within a narrow area of expertise. We used to listen to equipment for abnormal sounds. Now electronic monitors send signals to computers and analysis the data.
    My prediction is that wind and solar power generation will be zero 2040. All that equipment installed now will be junk by then. It does not work for producing power when we need it and the political benefit of pictures will be met.

  13. Wind and solar won’t be providing 85% of the world’s electricity in 2040 and coal will still be generating twice as much electricity as wind and solar.

    And if we have any sense Nuclear will be 2 or 3 times higher. I’m currently at either 35 or 40% nuke.
    By 2040 there will be landfills full of this trash, figure after 10 or 12 years, even a 5% failure rate is a huge number of panels that have to be replaced. There is no formal industry based life testing of solar panels. They live in just about the worst environment you can put electronics in. And sooner or later that will catch up to them. And they have a very limited output capacity, no magic future technology is going to fix that.

      • From AltFuelsNow:
        “Mechanical recycling of wind turbine blades produces two types of recyclates – fine and coarse. The finer recyclates have an especially low density which helps reduce the mass of its new construction, but the finer pieces also absorb more resin than others, which ultimately diminishes their performance. Though coarser recyclates absorb less resin than finer pieces, it is impossible to eliminate all of the resin residue. As a result, coarse recyclates have difficulty bonding with new materials. Return to Top
        What is Thermal Recycling of Wind Turbine Blades?
        Through the thermal recycling method, wind turbines are burned. The polymer within the turbine material is combustible and, when burned to 500 degrees Celsius, produces solid substances or liquid hydrocarbon products that can be turned into energy for the production of electricity. Leftover glass fibers may be used in glue, paints and concrete. Leftover carbon fibers may become part of new composite materials.”
        Not sure how environmentally friendly incinerating the blades is, nor precisely what “liquid hydrocarbon products” are produced and what it takes to turn then into energy, but this was the latest I found. Since turbines are wearing out at higher and higher rates, what to do with the blades has suddenly caught the attention of people. One problem may be that many people have no idea just how huge the blades are.

    • As a composites engineer I can assure you that wind turbine blades will never “fatigue out.” Below 55% of ultimate stress fiberglass fatigue life is essentially infinite.

  14. I realize these figures are for the US, but worldwide approximately 15% of the coal mined in a given year goes into steel production. Not only is this not going to stop; it’s going to continue increasing. Every metric ton of new steel requires (IIRC) ~787 kg of coal. So you can take world steel production projections and translate those directly into coal requirements. According to this resource, world steel demand in 2030 will be 2,290 million metric tons, an 80% increase over the 2010 actual production of 1,270 million metric tons.
    Steel production has shifted mostly out of the US and mostly into China, Japan and India, but it is still going to be produced somewhere and wherever that is will require coal.
    Sorry to disappoint Hansen and McKibben, but those “death trains” are going to keep rolling.

  15. It’s been explained to me over and over but I still don’t get it. Why isn’t hydro considered renewable?

    • “Why isn’t hydro considered renewable?”
      It is when quoting that energy amount from renewables.
      It isn’t when planning new renewable projects.

      • With a few exceptions all of the large hydro in the US is being used. Another dam is possible between Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. Although it was proposed, the new lake would extend into Grand Canyon.
        One of the benefits of hydro is unlimited recreation. Out west there is more land than people will to drive dirt roads. We are headed for Lake Mead for a few days this afternoon. We have gone to numerous places around Lake Mead, Lake Powell, and Gooseneck State Park. From the top of canyons, you can tell if the water is deeper for the purposes of making electricity.
        ‘Small hydro’ is still considered renewable in principle. There are also lots of opportunities. That is opportunities to find out what the billing rate for environmental attorneys.

      • Hoover Dam is north of the Grand Canyon.
        Any dam between Hoover and the canyon would also be north of the Canyon and since the Colarado flows south through that area, I don’t see how the lake would back up into the Canyon.
        I remember reading that there was discussion about making Hoover Dam several hundred feet higher, but since they were already pushing the technology of the day, the decided not to.
        Now that they have the new bridge finished that opens up the possibility of a taller dam in the same area.

    • According to the greenies in the NW, hydro is not green because dams block salmon runs from returning and kill smolt as they migrate to the ocean. There’s other reasons they use too but salmon is the main argument. I like to make their heads explode by asking how can making smolt protein drinks be considered bad when chopping up birds/bats can be considered renewable.

      • The Grand Coulee Dam, built without fish ladders, wiped out an entire subspecies of salmon, the June Hogs, which spawned in BC.

      • OTOH,
        Aluminum smelting and plutonium extraction powered by the Columbia River dams won WWII.

      • Another “new” argument—reservoirs emit more methane than we thought.
        Actually, any power that would allow the capitalist system to flourish is NOT renewable, no matter what it is. This is not about energy, it’s about killing capitalism. Every source that works “suddenly” has all these down sides. Ones that fail and cost a fortune are exempted from any criticism and have no problems.

    • Because if it were considered a renewable a lot of the renewable ‘targets’ would already have been met and the environmental grifters couldn’t reeve your pockets of your money.

      • You are right .It’s a PC thing.Political.The Bonneville Power Administration is prohibited by the Department of Energy from counting hydro as renewable.BPA ends up dumping water from dams because DOE regulations require preferential purchase of renewable energy , here a bouts mostly from wind farms.When the wind blows water is “spilled ” without going through the turbines.100% inefficient.

    • “Why isn’t hydro considered renewable?
      politics, market manipulation, lies.
      Utilities are required buy a certain percent of “renewables”. Some utilities would not have to have changed their practices at all.
      Bonneville (BPA) would have been given more subsidy through the fake demand of renewables. Hydro power would have been worth another 20% overnight because it would have been peddled to Utility companies that needed to buy their quota of overpriced crap energy.

  16. Anyone who has problems predicting power from the revolutionary nuclear molten salt reactors cannot be taken seriously. I guess they actually have to start installing these reactors before
    prognosticators as stupid as these guys finally see the future. The future is molten salt, Period. Cheapest, safest and can burn up most of our nuclear wastes. Can be built in factories and installed on land which requires minimal preparation. Three companies have designs in the testing phase and the Chinese are rushing pell mell to develop as well. Exactly how can these people claim to be experts on the future of energy and be so utterly ignorant of future energy technologies? Amazingly dopey article.

    • “be so utterly ignorant of future energy technologies?”
      How stupid is arthur? Everyone is ignorant of the future, it has not happened. The second reason aurthur is stupid is that he is ignorant of current technologies.
      Griff and arthur have something in common. They repeat baseless opinion.

  17. According to Cohen, transportation is the most significant safety factor in making power. However, “death trains” are not all that significant.
    I did read of a coal truck rolling through a lunch room when the parking break was not properly set and wheels not chocked.

    • When I lived in Tampa, a tanker truck carrying gasoline crashed under an interstate bridge.
      The Interstate was closed for about 6 months while they replaced the bridge.

      • Gasoline is a transportation fuel. Power plants using oil or gas have pipelines.
        The safety criteria for making electricity is much more stringent. Think of it this way. Banning gasoline tankers on road with gasoline cars would not make any sense.

  18. by 2050 I expect there to be little or no ‘renewable’ electricity generation left.
    Apart from hydro and waste burners.

  19. We went through a sort of “peak coal” in the U.S. probably once before when coal powered the trains and then the railroads switched to Diesel. We have ghost towns out west where once coal was king.
    Just the other day we read on this site predictions that fossil fuel usage will be in decline within a decade or two. But decline does not mean end. Not for coal and not for fossil fuels. It is possible to use electric vehicles for consumer transport, and short haul trucks, and even railroads, but we will be using diesel for the next century at least in applications like long-haul trucks, farming and construction, and JP fuels for aircraft. There are no realistic alternatives.

  20. It is not fossil fuel, it is hydrocarbons and it is renewable. The only thing fossil
    about it is Western thinking about its origin.
    The Russians understand hydrocarbon’s origin and exploit the West’s
    failure to understand by supporting the watermelons’ attempt to convince
    us not to exploit the best and cheapest form of portable fuel. They
    have traded on our ignorance for years and they do not want it to stop.
    The greens and big oil have had a common although probably unspoken common
    interest in people thinking that hydrocarbons are rare and finite. Big oil’s interest is
    convince us that their product is worth more than it really is, and greens say that we
    are running out anyway, so we need to find an alternative.

  21. I was purging some old magazines (remember them?) a few years ago, and came across some futurist one from 1999, making “millennium” predictions. All big thinkers, all geniuses, and all, mostly, wrong.
    BTW, here in Ontario, Canada, our Liberal government spent the first part of its current mandate blaming US coal use for our pollution. Then they banned coal here and claimed that the air is clear because they banned coal here.
    I don’t expect consistency from these guys, but this was blatant…

    • Caligula , and that is not even the worst your lib “government” as far as their “energy” policies are concerned are a total disaster! ( I won’t even start on what they have done to the manufacturing sector)

  22. David Middleton
    You mentioned a quote from 1917 about running out of coal.
    Can you provide the source?
    This was during one of the great commodity booms in history when there were critical shortages.
    The big commodity boom previous to that maxed out in the 1860s. A leading Brit economist, Jevons, had a personal vision that the world would run out of coal. He had detailed numbers to prove it. And concluded that civilization would fall back to a “subsistence” basis.
    His book, the “Coal Question” (1865) has some wonderful quotations about shortages and disaster.

    • In the fall of 1917, a severe coal shortage hit the United States. Riots even broke out over the lack of energy as the nation went into the winter months. Some people were calling for conservation, but one snarky newspaper article insisted that conserving was for suckers. Why? People of the future—specifically, the people of 100 years hence—wouldn’t be using coal anyway.
      I recently came across this article in the November 12, 1917 edition of the Lincoln Evening Journal in Nebraska which ran under the headline “Looking Ahead.” The piece was reprinted from the Chicago News and ridiculed the idea of worrying about whether people of the future would have enough coal. They needed coal now, and there’s absolutely no way that people of the year 2017 would still be using coal as energy.
      What will be people be using a hundred years hence? The author speculated that perhaps someone will find a way “to put the sun’s energy in storage, and pump it into people’s houses thru pipes.”

  23. I enjoyed the incorrect attribution to our Mr Berra. The Yogi Berra quote should really be called a re-quote. It is possible he said it, he was a humorous man. But no-one actually can find a precise time he did. It is probably a poor attribution. And hence why i like seeing people repeat it, as I then explain that the knowledge of the commons is frequently entirely wrong! Much like climate science.
    HOWEVER, the origin of the saying is in Denmark, of all places, and we have record of it from Quote investigator:

    The Danish politician Karl Kristian Steincke authored a multi-volume autobiography, and the earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the fourth volume titled “Farvel Og Tak” which was released in 1948. The title in English would be “Goodbye and Thanks”. The pertinent section of the book was called:
    Og saa til Slut et Par parlamentariske Sprogblomster
    And finally a couple of parliamentary howlers (English translation)
    A remark made during the parliamentary year 1937-1938 was presented although no attribution was given. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
    Det er vanskeligt at spaa, især naar det gælder Fremtiden.
    It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.

    • Timo, Yogi also said,”I didn’t say all those things they say I said.”
      That being said, he was my favorite philosopher. I especially like
      “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”

  24. As a starter don’t let the government decide the winners.
    If that had been the case fracing would never have happened. Even from within the oil industry up until just a few years ago there was considerable skepticism that it would work.
    Can you imagine the current world without fracing.
    Oil at $120/bbl
    Gas $16/Gj or more everywhere.
    Coal demand huge everywhere prices also
    renewables would be even more the flavour.
    Let the commercial imperatives prevail.
    Oh and Putin the leader of the world just forgot. Ah the watermelons would rejoicing in a new Marxist planet.

    • As a starter don’t let the government decide the winners.

      I’d have no problem with Government deciding the winners if Government didn’t have so many politicians in it. (Along with all those other people.) 😎

    • If oil as at $120.00 a barrel then the world would be in a financial mess.
      Many of the worlds economies couldn’t stand with oil that price.

  25. David Middleton If you are the DM of plant stomata, I have some information
    for you. The reason that plant stomata vary greatly around the world as an
    indicator of CO2 uptake is that CO2 is not well mixed in the atmosphere.
    Plant stomata reflect an amount of CO2 that is mixed but mostly they reflect
    the CO2 which up wells from the topsoil immediately under them.
    The very rich topsoil in Kansas, for example, is very rich due to the amount
    of natural gas up welling from deep in the earth being eaten by microbes,
    oxidized, making the soil rich, fertilizing the plants once. The oxidized hydrocarbons
    (CO2) enrich again through the stomata, causing people who translate
    stomata to CO2 ppm confusion.
    Look at world soil maps as an indicator of ongoing hydrocarbon enrichment
    and a predictor of CO2 immediately available to plants.
    The above are absolute proof that hydrocarbons up well continuously
    and always have, a constantly renewed resource.

  26. Coal consumption in Central Asia as a domestic heating fuel is on the rise. Concomitant with this trend is the development of extremely clean burning stoves that are being widely praised for functionality – not just smokelessness. Whatever the claims were for ‘health impact’ they are about to be disrupted. The in-home generation of electricity using TAG’s and TEG’s is also on the rise. Given the right opportunity, these changes may arrive a lot sooner than sector experts expect.

  27. In 1917 coal use meant something particular – furnaces. In all fairness by that description nobody uses coal anymore. Second, we produced approximately as many short tons of coal in 2016 as in 1917, but the population has more than tripled. So nobody has coal in their houses, and the per-person use is 1/3 what it was.
    If you are feeling generous to our WWI era counterparts they really didn’t miss the mark by all that much.

  28. I can understand predicting solar power would replace coal back in 1917.
    Solar power was a fairly new technology back then. (Yes, solar power dates back before the turn of the 20th Century.)
    But doing so after the technology has had 130 years to mature?
    We’re talking about technology introduced while Queen Victory still ruled the British Empire. Writing about Victorian era technology running the world is fine in a work of fiction (it’s called Steam Punk), but it doesn’t work that well when tried in reality.

  29. “ordered shuttered”
    Exactly who ordered what, Kip? Some states have not provided financial incentives to overcome cheap natural to keep some nukes operating past original design life. The operators of these plants made preparations necessary to keep them open.
    Just for the record, I do not think politicians in California and New York represent the views of the people living near the plants.
    Watts Bar 2 just came on line, two reactors in S. Carolina, and Two in Georgia are under construction. Places that welcome new nukes plants include Richland, Wa; Hollywood, Al; Berwick, Pa; Calvert County, MD.
    The NRC responds to ‘Science’.

    • Retired Kit P: “The NRC responds to ‘Science’.”
      RKP, do you think Donald Trump, Rick Perry, and the Republicans in Congress will restart the Yucca Mountain project, or will they instead do the sensible, the practical, and the affordable thing and send our spent nuclear fuel to an interim storage facility on the surface; and send our defense wastes to the WIPP facility in New Mexico?

      • Having worked on Yucca Mountain reviewing much of the science to ensure that meets the NRC criteria (e.g. traceable and traceable), my opinion is that there are many solutions.
        I personally would divide it between the backyards of Harry Reid, Obama, Clinton, and Jane Fonda.
        Give me the money spent by DOE and I could make it disappear and no one would ever find it. Me my co-conspirators would keep the left over money.
        However, the courts told Obama that even POTUS must follow the laws enacted by congress or get congress to change the law. From a practical point of view, what better place to put it than where we did underground nuke weapons testing.

      • Retired Kit P: “However, the courts told Obama that even POTUS must follow the laws enacted by congress or get congress to change the law. From a practical point of view, what better place to put it than where we did underground nuke weapons testing.”
        Just my personal opinion here, but as things stand today, it makes no sense at all to be burying our spent nuclear fuel underground — anywhere, at all, for any reason.
        Ninety-percent of the original fuel’s energy is still left in it, and the true dangers of storing spent nuclear fuel on the surface are minimal and easily managed.
        Now, it is quite true that twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years may pass before reprocessing and recovery of our civilian SNF’s remaining energy content becomes economic.
        But so what. Using deep geologic storage as a means of interim SNF management is massively more expensive than storing it on the surface. And for what actual gain in nuclear risk reduction?
        None that is worth the enormous trouble and expense.
        Sure, the Obama Administration’s decision to shut down Yucca Mountain was a violation of the Nuclear Waste policy Act (NWPA). But the Congress was complicit in that decision by not funding the NWPA. The Republicans could have restored funding for Yucca Mountain in 2014, but they chose not to.
        It’s better they didn’t, because the NWPA is an unworkable law. It mixes valueless defense wastes with civilian material that is a combination of valueless waste and potentially valuable spent nuclear fuel.
        The waste management approach embodied by the NWPA is a sure prescription for failure and has been recognized as such by many nuclear advocates in and out of government.
        Let’s store our valuable spent nuclear fuel on the surface in one or more localities that want to host it, and let’s send the valueless civilian and defense wastes to the WIPP geologic repository in New Mexico for permanent underground disposal.

  30. “Colarado flows south”
    Rivers flow downhill last I checked. How checking the elevation MarkW. The general direction from Lake Powell to through Grand Canyon is west, then the river curves north before turning south after the Hoover Dam.

  31. And abortion rites normalized in liberal societies. I wonder if anyone predicted that a moral and cultural Renaissance would progress to human sacrifice.

  32. Coal and oil will always be pulled out of the ground as long as it is there because unlike wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear sources of energy, coal and oil also give us a huge slew of other useful products from plastics to cosmetics, lubricants, solvents, paints, fabrics, dyes, and yes, even air and water purification devices. The list goes on for miles. As long as we continue to make those products, we might as well use the byproducts for making energy.
    Fossil fuels are a miracle in that they give us so much in energy and products while never depriving any living thing on Earth because plants and animals have no use for it.

    • Some other organisms do use fossil fuels, but there is plenty to go around, and we make more of it available for them. That includes those which have recently evolved to consume FF products, like nylon-eating bacteria.

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