and Enforcement (OSM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the Department of Health and Human Services; the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in the Department of Labor; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The committee also received briefings by representatives from the International Energy Agency (IEA), industry associations, state organizations, environmental organizations, academic researchers, and labor and industry—these individuals, with their affiliations and presentation titles, are listed in Appendix B. To respond to the statement of task, the committee relied on relevant technical documents, written materials provided to the committee, presentations made to the committee, pertinent National Academies’ reports, the committee’s observations during mine visits, and the collective expertise of committee members.

Early in the process, the committee queried the all-encompassing nature of the statement of task, which might be interpreted as an invitation to undertake a highly detailed study resulting in a lengthy and comprehensive report covering all aspects of coal production and use. In response, representatives from the offices of Senators Byrd and Specter emphasized to the committee that the advice sought by the congressional mandate was to be broad in scope and insightful, but with limited detail and abundant references to existing more comprehensive studies that address specific topics. Moreover, they indicated that R&D aspects of coal utilization technologies have already been assessed by a range of National Research Council reviews and requested that this study focus primarily on R&D related to all other (“upstream”) aspects of the coal fuel cycle. For this reason, the current report presents only a brief overview of coal utilization technologies and related R&D programs. While the committee identifies and highlights a number of critical issues related to coal utilization—in particular, the impact on coal use of government policies regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions—it does not evaluate or consider in detail the related R&D programs such as research on carbon capture and sequestration technologies. Rather, in accord with the congressional guidance, coal utilization R&D activities are summarized briefly with references provided to other ongoing programs and assessments.


The committee used the coal “fuel cycle” as an organizing framework to address the broad scope of the work statement. The fuel cycle is illustrated schematically in Figure 1.8, which depicts the approximate mass flows of coal from reserve assessment, through mining and processing, to end use. Although the energy content per unit of mass varies depending on coal type, the flow of energy embodied in the coal is approximately proportional to the mass flow.

Each stage of the fuel cycle also has associated environmental impacts, in the form of land use requirements and additional flows of wastes or residuals

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