Committee on Earth Resources - Fall 2018Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
National Academy of Sciences Building
2101 Constitution Ave NW Washington DC 20418
MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE ON EARTH RESOURCES
OCTOBER 25-26, 2018 | WASHINGTON, DC
Coal continues to play a vital role in the global energy mix, accounting for nearly 30% of the world?s primary energy supply and approximately 40% of its electricity generation, as well as serving as an important feedstock for industries such as steel and cement production. While China and India are the world?s largest consumers of coal, the U.S. holds the world?s largest proven coal reserve base and continues to rely upon coal to fuel approximately 30% of its electricity supply. The National Research Council published a report in 2007 (titled ?Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy?) that focused on upstream aspects of the coal industry and made specific recommendations regarding coal resource/reserve assessments, mine productivity and resource optimization, environmental protection and reclamation, and mine worker health and safety. A key finding was that of more than $538 million spent by federal government agencies for coal-related research and technology deployment in 2005, less than 10% was directed toward these important upstream aspects of the coal fuel cycle. The intent of this meeting of the Committee on Earth Resources is to provide a forum to discuss progress made regarding the recommendations in the 2007 NRC report, to identify upstream coal issues still requiring attention, and to explore potential next steps and implications for the future utilization of our Nation?s coal resources.
In recent years, the outlook for U.S. coal production and use has become less certain as a result of concerns about its environmental impacts and technological advances that have improved the cost-competitiveness of other energy sources such as natural gas and renewables. Against this backdrop, a substantial research and development effort has focused largely on controlling air, water, and waste emissions from coal-fired power plants and on improving the efficiency of coal-fired power generation. However, in addition to these downstream issues, the future utilization of our vast coal reserve base depends upon our ability to extract, transport, and beneficiate these reserves in a sustainable, efficient, and economically-competitive manner, and to approach reclamation practices for retired mine sites using best-available science. The cost of the coal feedstock is a major factor in determining the competitiveness of coal-fueled power generation and other coal-based processes, and the upstream portions of the supply chain factor prominently in coal?s overall environmental, health, and safety profile. Our discussion will focus on progress, challenges, and opportunities in all of these areas.