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On Friday, the Energy Department announced it will provide more than $120m in funding to create “coal products innovation centers… [that] …will focus on manufacturing value-added, carbon-based products from coal, as well as developing new methods to extract and process rare earth elements and critical minerals from coal.” The announcement was made in conjunction with a trip by the Energy Secretary to CONSOL Energy Inc.’s mining complex in western Pennsylvania, his fourth trip to a swing state in recent weeks. CONSOL announced in January that it had invested in a company that turns coal into carbon foam products for the industrial, aerospace, military, and commercial product markets.
Why This Matters: Coal innovation is an oxymoron or maybe just moronic – and certainly a dubious investment. In fact, despite having spent more than $1 billion of our taxpayer funds in an effort to “revive and modernize” the coal industry, including expanding U.S. coal exports and the development of emission-free products from coal, the industry –both in Appalachia and the West — continues to decline. University of Wyoming energy economist Robert Godby said of it in April, “It’s like the elevator is not just plunging down the elevator shaft; the cable broke and we’re just going straight down.”
CONSOL is already dipping into federal research dollars — it is also “partnering on a DOE-funded project with Ohio University and other industry partners to develop coal plastic composites that are geared toward the engineered composite decking and other building products markets. Studies show that the global market for such plastic composite materials is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2023.” The company sees the “coal to products” market as having a bright future. Its CEO said of their investment at the time that it “leverages certain attractive properties of coal but with significantly lower emissions and greater value uplift potential than conventional combustion applications. These products not only provide a high-margin revenue stream but also provide an intriguing new opportunity to utilize the vast resource base that our country is endowed with.” According to E&E News, Betsy Monseu, CEO of the American Coal Council, said there’s growing interest and momentum in the coal-to-products market.
Back to Reality
Environmental groups expressed frustration. The Hill reported that Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, called coal products in the developmental stage “boondoggles” and said of the announcement, “This is something that has been tried and failed many times before to find alternative uses for coal and it … usually never makes any sense economically,” said Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. Hitt went on to say that “We should instead be spending those resources on providing a fair and robust economic transition for coal communities as we continue moving away from coal.”
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer A plan to build the first utility-scale offshore wind project near Cape Cod— The Vineyard Wind project— has been delayed once again. The project has been delayed over a year as the federal government has requested increasingly rigorous permits. A final permit for the Vineyard Wind project had been […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer The city of San Jose, CA will become the largest city in the United States to ban natural gas from all new construction. The San Jose City Council is expected to approve a proposal that forbids natural gas use in new commercial and high-rise residential buildings, expanding an earlier […]
Chicago-based Invenergy announced this week that it will construct at a site in northeastern Texas a $1.6 billion project that will provide 1,310-megawatts of solar energy by 2023. The project is likely to create approximately 600 jobs during the construction, as well as bring in more than $250 million in landowner payments and $200 million in […]
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