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-to-products,” which expand the coal value chain by producing high-value carbon-based 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 prove 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, cutting-edge 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.
View article here.
- On October 27, 2020