Approved: April 2011
It is the position of NSPE that coal should continue to be a key part of the United States' energy supply. Our nation's coal reserves are abundant and relatively inexpensive compared to other fuels. The United States often has been called the "Saudi Arabia of Coal" because it has over 200 years of reserves at current usage rates. Coal accounts for approximately half of the energy used in the nation's production of electricity. It is important to energy security that coal continues to provide a dependable, domestic supply of energy.
Recent advances in coal technology have increased the efficiency of coal-fired power plants. Ultra-supercritical power plants are being introduced. Integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants are being demonstrated. Technologies continue to be developed for producing electricity from coal with increased efficiency and reduced emissions of pollutants. In the meantime, the present generation of new coal power plants provides low-cost power while meeting environmental regulations.
Coal can be used to produce a synthetic natural gas product. This synthetic natural gas can provide an economical, industrial resource in areas of the country where coal is abundant. Continued research is necessary to reduce costs for more general usage of synthetic natural gas made from coal.
Liquid fuel for vehicles also can be produced from coal. Coal liquefaction technology has been demonstrated; however, more research is needed to improve processes and reduce costs.
Research on coal technologies is needed to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and reduce emissions of pollutants. NSPE recommends funding for research and development of coal technologies for the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.