Re­gional coal serves the na­tional in­ter­est

Daily Press - - Opinion - By Dan Brouil­lette

Nor­folk and New­port News are syn­ony­mous with Amer­i­can naval power and na­tional se­cu­rity. Since the late 19th Cen­tury, Vir­ginia has built and de­ployed the ships that pro­vided the naval supremacy to win two world wars and keep our na­tion safe to this day.

But along the coast of the James River, there is an­other, less con­spic­u­ous, ac­tiv­ity that also plays a role in en­sur­ing our na­tional se­cu­rity: ex­port­ing Amer­i­can coal to over­seas mar­kets. More than one-third of our na­tion’s coal ex­ports are shipped through the Nor­folk Cus­toms Dis­trict. And those ex­ports reach crit­i­cal mar­kets in both Europe and Asia.

We must con­tinue to em­brace coal’s place in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s true “all-of-the-above” Amer­i­can en­ergy pol­icy, which uti­lizes all fuel sources and tech­nolo­gies. This will en­sure both our en­ergy and na­tional se­cu­rity for at least three rea­sons.

First, the United States is blessed with im­mense coal re­serves that should con­tinue to be used to meet both do­mes­tic and global de­mand. A 2017 EIA study showed that the United States led the world with 22% of proven global re­serves, and in 2019, they es­ti­mated that our re­cov­er­able coal re­serves would last for an­other 332 years. Those re­serves are es­ti­mated at 253 bil­lion short tons. To give a sense of scale, in 2018 U.S. pro­duc­tion was less than 1 bil­lion tons. We should use our mas­sive re­source ad­van­tage to pro­vide pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Sec­ond, the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy’s pur­suit of in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies is mak­ing coal cleaner and ex­pand­ing its value be­yond power gen­er­a­tion. We launched Coal FIRST, the only re­search project of its kind in the world, which is aimed at pro­vid­ing zero or near-zero car­bon diox­ide emis­sions for coal power plants.

Also on­go­ing are DOE’s ef­forts to de­velop and de­ploy cost-ef­fec­tive car­bon cap­ture, uti­liza­tion, and stor­age (CCUS) projects. On these two ef­forts com­bined — Coal FIRST and CCUS

— the depart­ment in­vested hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in 2020 alone, demon­strat­ing this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to ad­vanc­ing a cleaner en­ergy fu­ture for us and our trad­ing part­ners — a fu­ture that in­cludes coal.

DOE sci­en­tists are also work­ing to de­velop novel uses of coal, or “coal-toprod­ucts,” which ex­pand the coal value chain by pro­duc­ing high-value car­bon­based prod­ucts from coal feed­stocks.

As part of this ini­tia­tive, DOE just an­nounced $122 mil­lion for re­search to de­velop tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions to ex­tract rare earth el­e­ments, crit­i­cal min­er­als, and other valu­able re­sources from our Na­tion’s abun­dant coal re­serves. Even if de­mand for coal-gen­er­ated power has de­creased in re­cent years, the im­por­tance of these min­er­als in pro­duc­ing high-tech prod­ucts and crit­i­cal de­fense in­fra­struc­ture proves that we can­not turn our back on coal pro­duc­tion.

Fi­nally, the coal ex­port mar­ket pro­vides us the op­por­tu­nity to strengthen our na­tional se­cu­rity by im­prov­ing for­eign re­la­tion­ships through en­ergy trade.

In 2019, the United States ex­ported nearly 93 mil­lion tons of coal to at least 50 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Amer­i­can coal ex­ports of­fer a cleaner en­ergy source than for­eign alternativ­es and pro­vide im­port­ing coun­tries with greater en­ergy di­ver­sity and se­cu­rity.

The top five coun­tries for United States ex­ports in­clude strate­gic part­ners such as In­dia, Ja­pan, the Nether­lands, Brazil and South Korea. And our ex­ports to the Indo-Pa­cific are geopo­lit­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant be­cause they al­le­vi­ate some of the re­gion’s re­liance on Rus­sia and the Mid­dle East.

Our ro­bust en­ergy trade strengthen­s bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships with these na­tions, strength­en­ing our al­liances as we seek sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the crit­i­cal Pa­cific re­gion.

With our abun­dant re­sources, cut­tingedge tech­nol­ogy and ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties, it is to our ben­e­fit that coal re­mains a part of our en­ergy fu­ture. The docks of Nor­folk and New­port News, there­fore, will con­tinue to serve as crit­i­cal con­duits of Amer­i­can en­ergy, mak­ing the world safer, stronger, and more pros­per­ous for us all.

Dan Brouil­lette is the U.S. sec­re­tary of En­ergy.

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