safety and health, resource and reserve assessments, coal mining and processing, and environmental protection and reclamation) accounted for less than 10 percent of the total federal investment in coal-related R&D. Federal funding in 2005 for individual components of upstream activities ranged from $24.4 million (4.5 percent) for mine worker safety and health R&D to $1.3 million (0.2 percent) for coal mining and processing R&D.
Consideration of agency budgets over the past 10 to 15 years shows that federal government funding of R&D to support its regulatory role has remained broadly constant. In contrast, support for coal resource and reserve assessments has declined by nearly 30 percent as inflation has eroded constant nominal dollar funding, and support for mining and processing research declined dramatically in the mid-1990s, coinciding with the dissolution of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, and now represents only 0.2 percent of total federal coal-related R&D funding.
There are some components of the coal fuel cycle (e.g., coal transportation) where identification of potential stumbling blocks that may impede increased coal production and use do not lead to R&D recommendations—these issues are more appropriately dealt with by regulatory actions and existing government authority or will ultimately be resolved by standard business practices. However, for most components of the coal fuel cycle, a range of national interests—the need for sound information on which to base policy decisions, the requirement for optimum use of an important national resource, or society’s demand for personal or environmental health and safety—lead to a series of recommendations for high-priority R&D activities; these are noted below in bold.
Federal policy makers require accurate and complete estimates of national coal reserves to formulate coherent national energy policies. Despite significant uncertainties in existing reserve estimates, it is clear that there is sufficient coal at current rates of production to meet anticipated needs through 2030. Further into the future, there is probably sufficient coal to meet the nation’s needs for more than 100 years at current rates of consumption. However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient supply of coal for the next 250 years. A combination of increased rates of production with more detailed reserve analyses that take into account location, quality, recoverability, and transportation issues may substantially reduce the number of years of supply. Future policy will continue to be developed in the absence of accurate estimates until more detailed reserve analyses—which take into account the full suite of geographical, geological, economic, legal, and environmental characteristics—are completed.
Present estimates of coal reserves are based upon methods that have not been reviewed or revised since their inception in 1974, and many of the input data were compiled in the early 1970s. Recent programs to assess reserves in limited areas