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OPINION

All the Coal, None of the Carbon- Almost

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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It looks like the radical environmental left may have to find a new favorite dirty four letter word.  Scientists at Ohio State University have announced the discovery of a new process that takes the energy from coal without burning it – "and removes virtually all of the pollution."

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The technology, known as Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CCDL), captures more than 99 percent of coal's carbon dioxide emissions based on laboratory research.  The team of scientists led by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Clean Coal Research Laboratory at Ohio State University, has been working on this and other clean coal technologies for 15 years with funding by the Department of Energy.

 

Almost as amazing as the discovery itself, Prof. Fan's research project has survived three different Presidential Administrations with vastly different energy policies.

 

Carbon-dioxide has long been targeted by global warming alarmists. 

 

According to the EPA, coal-fired power plants produced about one-third of the nation's annual total emissions of carbon dioxide.  As the villain-of-choice for the Obama Administration, restrictive air-quality emission standards were purposely crafted to achieve the President's objective to "bankrupt" coal-fired plants faced with the cost-prohibitive and technologically impossible task of achieving the new standards.

 

But, this new technology virtually eliminates pollutants and "could reduce the cost of carbon dioxide capture by more than half if implemented on a commercial scale," according to the OSU research team.  

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Coal has been a staple of American energy production for centuries in large part because it is so plentiful throughout much of the U.S.  Today, the U.S. has more than 25 percent of the world's known "reserves" of coal, and vastly more of total coal "resources," as explained by the Institute for Energy Research

 

American Coal. The United States has enough recoverable coal reserves to last at least another 250 years, with reserves that are over one-and-one-half times greater than our nearest competitor, Russia, and over twice that of China. America’s known reserves alone constitute 27 percent of the entire world’s coal supply.

 

While known reserves are high, actual US coal resources are much higher than current estimates. Why? Because “reserves” represent coal that is readily evident as a result of ongoing mine operations, while “resources” include all those areas known to contain coal but have yet to be actually quantified by direct exposure due to the mining process. In-place U.S. coal resources (the entire estimated volume that is within the earth) totals 10 trillion short tons, and would last over 9000 years at today’s consumption levels. Alaska is estimated to hold more coal than the entire lower 48 states. (While the EIA’s estimate of recoverable coal reserves in Alaska is 2.8 billion short tons, geological estimates by the US Geological Survey put the in-place figure at over 6 trillion short tons.)

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Combined, all these US coal resources may contain the energy equivalent of 35 trillion barrels of oil. While such figures are speculative and incorporate some coal resources that may not be economically viable with today’s technology, the future is full of promise. The US’s coal resources are clearly vast.

 

The OSU discovery was funded by a DOE research grant of just $5 million – less than 1 percent of the amount that was squandered on the now bankrupt Solyndra solar energy start-up company in California. Further, the total investment in Professor Fan's research hardly amounts to a rounding-error of the $80 billion set aside in Barack Obama's 2009 Economic Stimulus legislation for "green energy projects" – many of which have already collapsed. 

 

In addition to efforts to regulate coal out of existence, the Obama Administration earned the infamous distinction of "the most anti-oil and gas record in U.S. history."  During the last four years, the Administration has issued moratoriums, delayed permitting, cancelled leases, and limited access to federal lands for energy production.   More recently, the Interior Department and EPA have begun aggressively pursuing new regulations on hydraulic fracturing technology (fracking) that has exponentially expanded recoverable resources and reduced consumer energy costs. 

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The OSU discovery exposes the fallacy of radical left and particularly the Obama Administration.  They believe people are the problem, when in fact people will invariably find the smart, safe, and efficient solutions to the challenges we face. 

 

At a time when North American energy independence in a real possibility due to our vast resources coupled with scientific advancements like fracking and encouraging discoveries like coal-direct chemical looping, our government and all citizens should be supporting – not trying to destroy – all options for safe, efficient energy production. 

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