What role should coal play in our energy needs?

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What role will coal play in our energy future both here and abroad?

I have always dismissed coal as a source of energy. At the same time, I know that even though solar is increasing its base in the United States, we are years away from the reality of any renewable energy being a solution to our energy question. Likewise, nuclear is a viable alternative, but it has too many interest groups allied against it.

So we’re still left with coal. Dirty, filthy old coal! The coal that causes asthma in our kids when we burn it. Unfortunately, nobody has yet come up with an efficient sequestration technology to make coal clean.

So while it’s true that coal will retain a prime place in our energy pantheon, we shouldn’t stop exploring long-term alternatives.

If you go back 10 years ago, solar was a joke when it came to the cost of installation and the expected payback time. But technology gets cheaper and we are getting closer to a time when it may be cost competitive. Nuclear could be cost competitive too. Natural gas is another energy source that shows great promise.

So often, people do what’s called static analysis. That means we look at things as they are and assume they’ll always be this way. If you use static analysis, we would never have even installed the first solar panel in the United States because it was too cost prohibitive. Nor would we ever have built more than one windmill for the same reason.

The point is I still see coal as a power source of the past that I admit we’ll use for years to come in the future. Long term though, we’ll have to develop other possibilities.



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