For this report, a broad interpretation of coal R&D has been adopted to include activities that are variously described by different agencies as pure research, applied science, pilot-scale testing, technical support, demonstration projects, and applied engineering projects. Collectively, these research-related activities support the coal component of the federal government’s energy portfolio.

The range of agencies and the diversity of federally funded programs raise a number of questions:

  • What is the total federal R&D funding across the coal life cycle?

  • Have R&D products been successfully integrated into the coal industry?

  • Does coal R&D require particular coordination?

In the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-447), Congress directed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to contract with the National Research Council to conduct a study on coal research, technology, and resource assessments. The committee’s task (Box 1.2) was to broadly examine coal R&D, recognizing that it is an essential component of an appropriate, integrated roadmap for our nation’s future energy needs. The analysis would allow policy makers to gauge the success of past research activities, gain a clearer understanding of the research being undertaken throughout the entire coal cycle, and provide updated and expanded information to better prioritize investment and policy needs within the coal sector. By also examining critical gaps in research and technology, and the potential impacts of key policy developments, this study was intended to offer a more complete picture of the role of coal in the U.S. energy mix, and provide the basis for more informed development of a national energy strategy.

To respond to the charge from Congress, the National Research Council established a committee comprising 13 experts with wide-ranging academic, industry, and state government expertise. Committee biographical information is presented in Appendix A. This report is designed for a wide range of audiences. It provides analysis and advice for the U.S. Congress and relevant federal agencies. It is also designed to provide accessible information to other federal agencies, state policy makers, the coal industry, and the general public.


The committee held seven meetings between January 2006 and February 2007, convening three times in Washington, D.C., and once each in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Spearfish, South Dakota; Boulder, Colorado; and Irvine, California. The committee visited an underground coal mine near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a surface coal mine in the Powder River Basin near Gillette, Wyoming.

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