for Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH] and the Mine Safety and Health Administration [MSHA]) has declined by 56 percent. During this same period, support for R&D related to downstream utilization (DOE-FE and EPA-ORD) has increased by 24 percent.


Accurate and complete estimates of national reserves are needed to determine whether coal can continue to supply national electrical power needs and whether coal has the potential to replace other energy sources, such as petroleum, that may become less reliable or less secure. Two major questions are considered in Chapter 3 to assess existing estimates of the amount of usable coal:

  1. Are estimates of available coal reliable, and are they good enough to allow federal policy makers to formulate coherent national energy policies?

  2. Can coal reserves in the United States produce the 1.7 billion tons per year total of coal required in 2030 if the EIA reference case described in Chapter 2 becomes a reality?

The two primary federal agencies that provide resource and reserve information are the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Department of the Interior. The EIA is responsible for maintaining Demonstrated Reserve Base (DRB) data (Box 3.1), the basis for assessing and reporting U.S. coal reserves. The USGS has responsibility for mapping and characterizing the nation’s coal resources, in cooperation with agencies that have land and resource management responsibilities (e.g., the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement [OSM]) and agencies that use USGS resource projections (e.g., the EIA). Although most coal-producing states have geological surveys that collect data to categorize their coal resources, in most cases these organizations lack the personnel and funding for comprehensive coal resource and reserve investigations; most state coal resource investigations have been undertaken in cooperation with the USGS, BLM, or OSM. For this reason, they typically only evaluate the in-place tonnage and do not estimate recoverability—this has been largely left to the USGS and the EIA. Mining companies generate detailed reserve estimates for the coal they control or are interested in obtaining. Companies consider these data to be proprietary, and as a consequence they are rarely available for government resource and reserve studies except for the reserve estimates that have to be reported at operating mines. In assessing existing estimates of available coal and the data and methodologies used to derive these estimates, the committee came to the following conclusions:

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