Coal and the Space-Time Continuum

Albert Einstein said, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  This is a guiding principle the nation would do well to consider as we navigate planning for life after dependence on finite energy resources.

Clean energy transportation

Imagine West Virginia is a well-respected policy think tank that dove into the deep end when it issued its first formal policy recommendations in April 2008 with Coal: Energy, the Environment & West Virginia.  This report is a good example of keeping things simple without going too far in that direction.

Testament to what IWV did very well is that the report’s facts are not in dispute.  What one ought to conclude or support from the facts is a contentious issue, however, so there has been some heat in the kitchen for over two years.  I was reminded last week of the statistic that “projections suggest that there is sufficient coal to meet the nation’s energy needs for more than 100 years at current rates of consumption.”

What brought this stat to mind was someone’s comment that “coal isn’t running out any time soon.”  This is a verbatim phrase I’ve heard so many times I almost ignore it now, but for some reason this time it brought me to full attention.  Coal isn’t running out any time soonWe have about 100 years.

On both sides of my family, 100 years is one human lifetime.  It is an exceptionally long lifetime, but it is one nonetheless.  When you see 10 decades that way, it feels like we have no business exhaling over the finite nature of coal as an energy resource.  If you have not yet read the IWV report, you may enjoy learning more about what a significant slice of the energy pie it is at home and abroad.  It is quite clear that even if one wanted to just stop the use of coal tomorrow there is currently no other developed alternative energy that is ready to fill the gap based on current demand.

Human beings can step up when they have to save their own rear ends.  We will most likely get it together to fill the coal gap before my child is a grandmother, but not if we continue to act like coal isn’t running out any time soon.  Einstein also theorized, “For objects travelling near light speed, the theory of relativity states that objects will move slower and shorten in length from the point of view of an observer on Earth.” 

I’m not 100% sure why I think this has something to do with the whole kit and kaboodle, but I think it might.  It’s also probably not simple.