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Coal Industry Seeks Carbon Reduction Through Innovation



By Chris Hamilton President, WV Coal Association

July 15, 2021 - Seeking realistic reductions in carbon emissions is a noteworthy cause and is shared by many West Virginia students, residents, and businesses.  

To the surprise of some, the coal industry is part of this movement and together with our in-state electric utilities have made substantial gains over time and reductions that have placed our energy assets among the best in the world. 

During recent times, over 90% of all airborne contaminants have been eliminated while the amount of coal used to manufacture household of electricity has tripled. This is a phenomenal and noteworthy record that is primarily responsible for the high quality of life most West Virginians have been exposed to. 

We are convinced that with a little ingenuity and by working together we will not only solve the carbon issue and consequently, the climate issue, but we believe it can be done in such a way we should be able to continue using all of our natural resources to make steel, develop innovative carbon-based products, and to stabilize our dependence on household electricity.

This approach is at the core of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s call to “innovate not eliminate”, which we embrace.

See, we have the most competent people and brightest of minds working together around the clock at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratories, WVU Energy Institute and other federal and academic entities, in partnership with the mining industry, to solve the carbon issue.

As an industry, we seek reasonable and realistic carbon reduction targets and timelines that will allow carbon control research to be implemented to give this initiative the best chance of success.  Should this not be attainable, “innovation” would become “elimination” by default, and under that scenario, we all clearly fail.

Industry detractors call for the immediate elimination of coal mining and coal usage.  They deny any value or benefit to the approximately $13.9 billion in economic impact the coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation industries provide to West Virginia, or the workers the industry employs. They also deny the critical importance of fossil energy to assuring uninterrupted power supplies, grid stability and resiliency, and overall energy security. They, in essence, want to eliminate, not innovate.

It is worth pointing out that as industry detractors hold up California and New York as shining examples of the clean energy movement, West Virginia, with all its fossil energy commerce and tens of thousands of energy workers, ranks nearly four times better than California and two times better than New York in overall carbon output.  “California Dreamin” takes on new meaning when confronted with the facts. Maybe those two states should stop what they are doing or shut down? 

We believe carbon capture and related technologies can be employed in a meaningful way. There is a path forward where we collectively embrace charted movement towards a truly carbon free economy. And all the while, we can continue to support a robust energy industry that includes coal mining and an advanced carbon products portfolio. 

We anticipate that West Virginia will demonstrate to the world that it is possible to have a world class energy sector that provides jobs, low-cost energy and is a model for employing carbon reduction technologies.