The United States doesn't need to develop alternative energies to address its energy woes; it just needs to substantially increase the production of coal-based energy. At least that's the conclusion the National Coal Council comes to in its latest draft recommendation to the Department of Energy.
The National Coal Council is a federal advisory committee to the DOE, and it's comprised almost entirely of coal industry representatives. We have been digging into the council's long-standing relationship with the DOE and tracking its influence on American energy policy through its meeting minutes and Agency recommendations.
While the council's latest recommendations don't explicitly call for the U.S. to double its coal consumption like it did in the 2006 report we highlighted last week, it still insists that more coal-based electricity production is the only way to meet rising energy demand:
In order to meet the growing demand for electricity, additional coal-based generation is essential. Coal is the only major energy source which can meet projected electricity demand in a timely, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean manner.
The council also recommends that the federal government pay 100% of the construction costs for any coal-to-liquid plants commercialized before 2020. (Coal-to-liquid plants turn raw coal into a liquid fuel for automobiles.)
There's just one catch that the council doesn't note: Relying on coal, even after it's converted into a liquid, could be disastrous in terms of global warming. A 2006 EPA report shows that the replacement of gasoline with liquid fuel from coal would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 118%.
The council's previous recommendation to DOE suggested that increasing U.S. oil supply by 10% would require mining an additional 475 million tons of coal. In 2006, more than 1.1 billion tons of coal were mined in the U.S.
We asked the DOE whether it expects to implement the council's recommendations. "We very much appreciate their work on this latest study and look forward to studying their recommendations," said DOE spokeswoman Angela Hill via a statement. No doubt they'll study it closely. According to the Federal Advisory Committee database, over the past 21 yearsthe DOE has implemented roughly 80% of the council's recommendations.