U.S. Can’t Do Without Coal

By September 10, 2007Energy

We’ll just steal that headline from The Examiner since it clearly sums up the arguments from the Manhattan Institute’s Max Schulz. Please do read the whole essay, because it succinctly covers the facts of U.S. energy use:

Roughly half of our electricity each year is generated by more than a billion tons of coal. Nothing else comes close; nuclear energy and natural gas are each responsible for about a fifth, while hydropower supplies about 7 percent. Wind and solar energies make up just part of the tiny balance.

Our computers, servers, iPods, and cell phones depend on electricity from coal, as do more conventional gadgets like refrigerators, televisions, and microwave ovens. Add to that list the nation’s factories, schools, stores, hospitals, and emergency call centers. Over the last quarter century, the United States’ real GDP has more than doubled, with much of this growth coming from businesses and industries chiefly relying on electricity – not oil or gas. This simply could not have occurred without coal.

And the environmental context (which affects public opinion):

Over the last quarter century, innovative clean coal technologies have helped cut pollution emissions even though overall coal use has increased. Promising carbon sequestration projects show the potential of limiting or even eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

While terms like “carbon sequestration” make the eyes glaze over, the technologies they represent hold the key to the continued use of coal. The United States has 250 years’ worth of coal; given our economy’s increasing demand for affordable, reliable electricity (a need renewable energies will be unable to meet), we’ll need all that we can get. Now more than ever, the pursuit of cleaner, safer technologies cannot be overlooked.

Unfortunately, the energy bills now being considered in Congress do little if anything for the energy foundation upon which this economy rests. To our policymakers, we commend Mr. Schulz’s column.

UPDATE (12:15 p.m.): Schulz also had a good piece on the electricity-driven economy last week in The National Review.

Our economy will require much more electricity in the future. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts electricity consumption will increase by 43 percent by 2030. It is critical, therefore, that policymakers concentrate on issues that acknowledge and prepare for those projections. That means pro-growth policies spurring investments to increase capacity. We need more power plants, especially nuclear plants, but more coal-fired generators too. We need to upgrade infrastructure, as well, to ensure that the grid can handle heavier demand. And we need to recognize that policies romanticizing renewable energies like wind and solar power will fail to address the hard realities of an expanding economy.

Senator Reid?

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