U.S. Coal Panel Taps Expertise of UT Dallas Prof
National Research Council Sought His Help for Energy Policy Report
A report to Congress on coal’s future as a U.S. energy source draws on the expertise of UT Dallas Professor Robert Finkelman, an authority on the effects of coal production and use.
Dr. Finkelman, a professor in the Geosciences Department of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, has devoted his career to understanding coal’s properties, economic byproducts, and environmental and health impacts.
He specializes in the field of Medical Geology, which seeks to understand the impacts of geologic materials and processes on animal and human health.
Dr. Finkelman’s help was sought after Congress asked the National Research Council to organize a committee to study coal-related research and development. Dr. Finkelman was a member of the committee and a co-author of the recently published NRC report Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy.
The committee focused primarily on such production activities as coal mining and transportation, and was also asked to highlight any potential obstacles to increased coal production. Dr. Finkelman said some of the panel’s findings will find their way into GEOS 3101: Coal in our Society, a class he will teach in the fall.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Increased coordination of coal-related research and development among federal agencies, with participation of states, industry and academic institutions.
- A coordinated federal-state-industry initiative to determine the magnitude and characteristics of the nation’s recoverable coal reserves, using modern mapping, coal characterization, and database technologies, should be instituted with the goal of providing policy makers with a comprehensive accounting of national coal reserves within 10 years.
- Health and safety research should be expanded to anticipate increased hazards in future coal mine conditions.
- Additional research is needed to mitigate the adverse environmental impacts associated with past, existing and future coal mining and processing.
- There should be renewed support for advanced coal mining and processing research to optimize the use of the nation’s coal resources.
- There should be a major effort to identify, characterize and catalog the CO2 capacity of potential geologic sequestration resources.
The report concludes that coal will continue to provide a major portion of U.S. energy requirements for at least the next several decades, and it is imperative that policy makers are provided with accurate information describing the amount, location, and quality of the coal resources and reserves that will be available to fulfill these energy needs. It is also important that coal be extracted efficiently, safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.
Coal provides nearly a quarter of U.S. energy supplies and is used to generate more than half of the nation’s electricity. Although future demand for coal may be impacted by regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, coal use is expected to remain constant or even increase over the next several decades. An increased investment in research and development is needed to ensure that the nation’s coal resource is used efficiently, safely, and in an environmentally responsible manner.
Dr. Finkelman received his Ph.D. in chemistry from University of Maryland. He was formerly a senior scientist and project chief for the Eastern Energy Resources Team at the U.S. Geological Survey.