Five Technologies Proponents Hope Will Help Clean Up Coal’s Image

February 13th, 2013 | by Petti Fong

Even those who like coal know it’s not the most lovable source of energy out there. But coal, dirty and destructive to the environment by its nature, remains after all these centuries a cheap and effective fuel source for much of the world.

In the United States alone, coal use rose more than 75 percent since 1980 but began declining s in 2010 and is expected to continue that trend through 2015. After that, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects domestic consumption to rise through 2035.

But the biggest increases in demand are coming from China and India, which according to an International Energy Agency report in December will lead growth in global consumption by 2017. China is already the biggest importer of coal and India is set to surpass the United States as the second-largest consumer. The fuel already provides around 40 percent of the world’s electricity needs, according to the International Energy Agency.

Low-priced natural gas is the only competition in the electricity generation sector that can reduce coal demand, and its lower emissions and smaller environmental impact make it a more attractive alternative for many. In response, coal associations and producers have been pushing the once-inconceivable concept that even this dirtiest of fuel sources can be cleaned up through the use of technological changes in extraction, processing and power generation.

Here are five recent advances that are making a difference in the sector:

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