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How Coal and the Climate Can Coexist

Mining Industry to Congress: There is Middle Ground
 
In testimony from a mining association to a Congressional subcommittee in 2009, the message was simple and clear. Without coal, the U.S. would not be able to provide electricity for every home at current levels. At the same time, the association admitted that coal-based power plants emit unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). But the environment and coal do not have to be at odds, thanks to carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS).
 
CCS technology is considered to be a potentially significant contributor to the changes required to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations and alleviate climate change.  Unfortunately, deploying CCS is not going to be cheap. Greater federal support will be vital for timely deployment of CCS technology so that coal-based power plants will be able to reduce CO2 emissions without switching to fuels more costly for households and industries. Otherwise, a sharp drop in coal consumption could have a devastating effect throughout the U.S. coal community, from which it would be very difficult to recover, even with CCS technology available in the future.
 
The World - Not Just the U.S. - Needs to Wake Up
 
Between 2007 and 2030, global energy demand is projected to increase by 50 percent, according to testimony.  The International Energy Agency projects a 57 percent growth in greenhouse gas emissions, virtually all of which will come from developing countries.  So even if the United States and every other advanced nation completely stopped using coal, most of the world's CO2 emissions sources would remain untouched.  Without CCS, the world will lose out on the most effective tool for addressing CO2 emissions-particularly in developing economies.
 
Baby Steps
 
The mining association made the point that the industry can't be expected to build plants with 65 percent carbon capture if not first allowed to build plants with only 20 percent capture. A mining spokesperson said, "We must walk before we can run. Toyota would not have developed the Prius if it had to await development of plug-in hybrid vehicles."
 
See the full testimony from the mining association at www.nma.org/pdf/cong_test/030909_quinn.pdf.

By Rita Henry
Get Mining Jobs, Contributing Editor

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