In order for America to have a strong economy, America needs energy security with a sound energy policy. That means energy has to be affordable, abundant and reliable.
All of our nation’s energy resources, including resources which are not popular due to environmental misconceptions, are needed to maintain energy security. Without a doubt, coal is our nation’s most abundant energy resource, produced domestically, and this abundance leads to affordability. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal was the second-largest energy source for U.S. electricity generation in 2016—about 30 percent.
We have all heard for years that coal is a finite resource and the well (or the mine in this case, is running dry). These claims have been made for years. The earliest shortage claim I’ve seen was published in “The Wonders of Science” in 1912 (yes, 1912).
In this science book, Sir William Ramsey “warned the world against the reckless use of coal and pointed out that this supply of fuel would, at the present rate be exhausted in the relatively near term.” Unless by “relatively,” he was using the geological time scale, he was off by hundreds of years.
According to the EIA, ”Based on U.S. coal production in 2016 of about 0.73 billion short tons, the recoverable coal reserves would last about 348 years, and recoverable reserves at producing mines would last about 23 years. The actual number of years that those reserves will last depends on changes in production and reserves estimates.” The EIA published the following chart on coal reserves.
With such an abundant, affordable and reliable supply, research and development should be invested in clean-coal research so this source may continue to be part of America’s energy policy, while being used in an environmentally responsible manner.
Technological improvements have resulted in the ability to remove over 99 percent of the particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. There have also been dramatic reductions in other emissions. Recycling of coal combustion products such as ash and gypsum has a proven track record of success. A sound energy policy needs to include our most abundant, affordable and reliable source of electric power: coal.