American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc.
This paper was prepared for the 1974 Eastern Regional Meeting of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME, to be held in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14–15, 1974. Permission to copy is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words. Illustrations may not be copied. The abstract should contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper is presented. Publication elsewhere after publication in the JOURNAL paper is presented. Publication elsewhere after publication in the JOURNAL OF PETROLEUM TECHNOLOGY or the SOCIETY OF PETROLEUM ENGINEERS JOURNAL is granted upon request to the Editor of the appropriate journal provided agreement to give proper credit is made.
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It should be apparent that if the United States is to reduce its dependence on foreign countries for fuels (currently about 12 percent and projected to be possibly as much as 50 percent in the near future), greater use of percent in the near future), greater use of coal must be a major part of a national energy policy. This would be dictated by the overwhelming policy. This would be dictated by the overwhelming dominance of the coal resource base alone; coal constitutes 74 percent of the total of all potential energy resources. But additional factors, such as the accelerating depletion of other energy resources, make the need to substantially increase the use of coal for energy from its current share of 18 percent even more imperative.
Gas and oil are at present the most desirable fuels for reasons of convenience and/or minimum environmental degradation. The atom may be the fuel of the future because it is potentially almost inexhaustible. But gas and oil reserves are being depleted more rapidly than new supplies are being found and the technology for the maximum efficient use of the atom is not yet available.
Coal is the logical interim fuel; converted in form to liquid and/or gas to supplement natural supplies and used in its natural form to produce electricity pending the technological breakthrough by which the atom can provide this energy form.
In June 1952, a report was published by a specially appointed President's Materials Policy Commission which dealt with the supply and demand worldwide for various natural resources including fuels. Referring to the overall outlook for energy resources, that Commission report said, "The essence of the energy problem is that huge further expansion of supply must be accomplished in the face of limitations upon the free world resource base, which threaten to force real costs upward and which might, in the event of war, cause serious shortages."
It took almost 22 years for that forecast to be realized, until the breakout of the Arab-Israel war in October 1973. As we are all aware, there followed very shortly thereafter severe shortages of gasoline and fuel oil in the United States. And while these shortages were alleviated during the first half of 1974, costs were forced upward as predicted by the President's Materials Policy Commission in 1952.