In watching the first presidential debates the other evening, one thing that was said, and almost in passing during the topic of energy and how it affects our economy and way of life was the development of coal as an energy source. With the ever increasing price of foreign oil, the concept of this country being self-sufficient and relying less and less on energy sources that are not home grown, has taken more and more priority.
When Mr. Romney mentioned his interest in coal–and almost as an afterthought–as a source of energy, it made me think that most Americans, including myself, don’t really think of coal as a viable fuel. It’s such an old fashion fuel. Coal was used in manufacturing and the heating of homes back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Even in the early 50’s I remember apartment building having deliveries of coal. Environmentally the burning of coal was a disaster, spewing out sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. The heating of homes, among other places, was prevalent in London, England and that is why it was always foggy. The air in “Old Foggy London Town” was polluted by coal burning.
So how in this modern era can coal be once again considered? The top five coal producing countries in the world are China, USA, India, Australia and South Africa. And whatever coal is produced stays within that country, only 15% is ever exported. The trick to using coal, however, is to have the proper technology to be able to burn it cleanly minimizing its impact on the environment. Coal is abundant in the US and if exploited, would certainly reduce the dependence of foreign oil especially in manufacturing. Currently it is already being used in certain parts of the country to generate electricity and where it is used, it has lowered electricity rates according to americaspower.org.
In quoting americaspower.org, “Climate change concerns represent a serious challenge. Today, energy companies are working with the federal government to develop, demonstrate and deploy the next generation of advanced technologies. These technologies will make it possible to reduce emissions to very low levels for traditional pollutant emissions, as well as capture and safely store carbon dioxide-while ensuring a reliable supply of affordable electricity to meet America’s growing energy needs using one of America’s most abundant domestically produced fuels.”
If with the help of the U.S. government clean coal technology does become a working reality by not negatively impacting the environment and while using a less costly domestic source of energy to improve our economy, only the future will tell.