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Mike wanted to make a couple comments. First I agree that the debate about how much energy we have access to is very confusing partly because there are genuine knowledge gaps about many natural resources we do or do not have. There are also people and corporations with genuine agendas of their own pro and con. The other unavoidable fact is that oil companies and the like have a financial incentive to squash competition where ever they find it. The last thing oil companies want is someone to develop a limitless source of cheap energy because they'd be out of business in a heartbeat. That being said, you (meaning everyone) have to be careful compare the amount of energy that is available. The problem with coal is it's a solid so you can't run a car on it. Before you can use coal to run a car you have to convert it to either a gas or (preferable) a liquid. Natural gas is, well, a gas. You can run a car off gas but you'd have to either compress it or have a very large gas tank to hold it. What I'm saying is this... "any comparison between natural gas, petroleum, coal or any other form of energy requires that you include any energy needed to convert the resource into a usable form and whatever transport cost (expressed in energy spent) to get it to where it is needed". For example, coal might be readily available but it has to be shipped halfway across the country in a rail car and then converted to a liquid in a fractionation process before you can run a car on it. Just looking at the total amount of coal sitting in the ground isn't the whole story.
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Jan 30, 2010