requirements for coal RDD&C can be assessed. It will be seen that these scenarios are based on the major findings of Chapter 3 and encompass a range of requirements envisioned by the committee as likely to arise. While circumstances less demanding can be envisioned, it is the belief of the committee that a major role of DOE is to provide technological insurance for a credibly demanding future. For example, in the view of the committee, requirements to reduce CO2 emissions are sufficiently probable to provide a strong driving force for the very ambitious DOE efficiency goals for power generation (see Chapter 2). Further, the coal program should be sufficiently robust and flexible to accommodate evolving needs. After the baseline scenarios are presented, alternative scenarios that are more and less demanding are also reviewed.
Given the inherent uncertainty of predictions, the committee developed and considered several variations on the baseline scenarios. Less demanding scenarios would postpone the need for advanced coal utilization technology, while more demanding scenarios would accelerate the need.
Less demanding scenarios would result if natural gas and oil prices remained low or if concerns about the environment diminished. If no natural gas shortages were anticipated, for example, there would be less need for new or improved technologies for coal-based power generation. If oil supplies remained plentiful and prices low, there would be little incentive to develop technologies to produce liquid fuels from coal. Less severe environmental constraints would also reduce the need to develop clean coal technologies for both domestic and international markets. In particular, if no new regulations were enacted to control air toxics or other air pollutants, and if concerns about CO2 emissions diminished, there would be fewer pressures to develop advanced environmental control technologies or maximally efficient coal-based plants.
On the other hand, the demand for new coal-based plants would be accelerated if there were unexpected shortages of electricity or natural gas. This scenario would create more demanding RDD&C requirements for advanced coal utilization technologies. Disruptions in the supply of imported oil could increase oil prices significantly, resulting in new emphasis on domestic energy security and coal liquefaction technology. A more demanding short-term scenario could also result from increased domestic or international concern about the environmental impacts of coal-based facilities. Concern about the effects of global warming could lead to penalties for CO2 emissions, encouraging faster development and use of very high-efficiency coal-based systems and greater R&D on CO2 removal and disposal options.