Coal's Comeback

October 5, 2007 • Volume 17, Issue 35
Can coal become a clean energy source?
By Jennifer Weeks

Introduction

A 100-car coal train travels through Wyoming in 2006. Coal generates half of the U.S. electrical supply, but environmentalists argue that burning coal contributes to acid rain and climate change. Supporters contend technology can eventually eliminate most pollution from coal. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A 100-car coal train travels through Wyoming in 2006. Coal generates half of the U.S. electrical supply, but environmentalists argue that burning coal contributes to acid rain and climate change. Supporters contend technology can eventually eliminate most pollution from coal. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Many Americans regard coal as a high-polluting fuel of the past, but today the U.S. is on the verge of a new coal energy boom. Coal-burning power plants generate half the nation's electricity, and that share could grow. More than 150 new coal power plants are planned or under construction, but critics oppose many of them. Coal is cheap and plentiful compared to other fuels, but it also produces air pollutants that contribute to acid rain, smog and climate change and cause thousands of deaths every year. Supporters say technology can make coal a pollution-free energy source in coming decades and that coal could even be used to make liquid fuels as a substitute for oil. But environmental and health advocates argue that the damaging impacts from mining, transporting and burning coal cancel out its value as an energy source. As Congress and the states debate proposals to combat global warming, regulators and businesses weigh coal's energy benefits against its health and environmental liabilities.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Coal Industry
Jun. 17, 2016  Coal Industry's Future
Jun. 24, 2011  Mine Safety
Oct. 05, 2007  Coal's Comeback
Mar. 17, 2006  Coal Mining Safety
Apr. 21, 1978  America's Coal Economy
Oct. 25, 1974  Coal Negotiations
Nov. 19, 1954  Coal in Trouble
Apr. 04, 1952  Coal Supply and European Rearmament
Jan. 22, 1947  Labor Costs and the Future of Coal
Jul. 24, 1935  Stabilization of the Bituminous Coal Industry
Jan. 01, 1929  The Anthracite Coal Situation
Dec. 01, 1928  The Bituminous Coal Situation
Jun. 30, 1927  The Bituminous Coal Strike
Aug. 15, 1925  The Bituminous Coal Problem
Aug. 01, 1925  Strike Emergencies and The President
Jul. 25, 1925  Miners' Wages and the Cost of Anthracite
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Coal
Energy and the Environment