Perry asks advisory group for ideas on coal’s future — report

Source: Dylan Brown and Hannah Northey, E&E News reporters • Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has tapped a federal advisory committee to study how to boost American coal exports and save the nation’s remaining coal-fired power plants.

With the administration actively considering a slew of solutions to shore up the future of the industry, Perry has commissioned two reports from the National Coal Council. The group of representatives from mining companies, utilities and other affiliated sectors has advised the Department of Energy on coal policy since 1984.

NCC CEO Janet Gellici told E&E News no formal request for a third study had arrived, but Axios reported today that Perry next month will officially direct the federal advisory committee to explore new uses for coal.

DOE declined to comment.

More than 90 percent of U.S. coal production goes toward electricity generation, but companies like Ramaco Carbon argue coal could become a key ingredient in carbon fiber, building materials and other products.

Ramaco CEO and NCC member Randy Atkins made that case to the advisory group earlier this year and Congress just a few weeks ago (E&E Daily, July 25).

DOE has asked Atkins to chair the working group that would produce a report on the potential for what the longtime industry executive calls “coal-to-products,” reported Axios.

For now, NCC plans to post drafts of the ongoing studies by the end of this month.

The first, “Advancing U.S. Coal Exports,” targets a bright spot for domestic production. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects 7 percent more coal to ship overseas in 2018 after a huge surge the year before.

But U.S. coal-fired power generation continues to decline, leading to the second study, “Power Reset: Optimizing the Existing Coal Fleet.”

Coal-burning utilities and mining companies have beseeched the White House and independent regulators to take drastic action to keep open power plants slated for closure, prompting debate throughout the administration (Energywire, Aug. 9).