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Coal Research and Development: to Support National Energy Policy
disciplines, and this shortage will be exacerbated by any significant increases in coal production.
The limited research funding by industry and government has been a serious threat to the sustainability of postgraduate programs, and the reduction in mining research has had a significant impact on the recruitment, retention, and development of faculty in mining-related disciplines. The vast majority of the academic faculty in mining programs is at a senior level and close to retirement, posing serious succession and continuity problems. Extramural funding by federal agencies directed to universities in support of fundamental research in the earth sciences and engineering would support postgraduate programs and assist in recruiting, retaining, and developing the academic mining profession (NRC, 2004b, 2005b, 2007a).
EXISTING FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR COAL-RELATED R&D
Coal-related R&D is carried out by a range of organizations and entities—federal government agencies, state government agencies, academic institutions, coal mining companies, and equipment manufacturers. In general, the scope and motivation for research are determined by the relevance and potential impact of solutions to the problems that need to be responded to by the various entities and organizations (e.g., agencies with a primarily regulatory role support limited research focused on technical support for regulation; equipment manufacturers undertake materials research and market trends). Here, the committee focuses on existing support for research and development funding by the federal government across the coal fuel cycle, to set the context for recommendations contained in the following sections.
For this report, the committee adopted a broad interpretation of R&D to include activities that are variously described by federal agencies as pure research, applied science, technical support, pilot-scale testing, demonstration projects, and applied engineering projects. Budgets were requested for the 1995, 2000, and 2005 fiscal years so that funding trends might be discerned. The data were analyzed by the committee, and the committee’s interpretations of the data were sent back to agency staff for confirmation. The committee categorized R&D budgets according to the different stages of the coal fuel cycle—resource and reserve assessment, coal mining and processing, coal mining safety and health, environmental protection and reclamation, transport of coal and coal-derived products (including electricity transmission), and coal utilization (including air emission and carbon sequestration research).
More than $538 million was spent by federal government agencies for coal-related research and technology development in 2005 (see Table 7.2). The specific coal-related roles of these agencies are described in Appendix C, together with limited descriptions of past levels of federal R&D support. Table 7.2 shows that coal-related R&D support from most offices is focused on a single R&D