This report was prepared in response to a request by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The principal objectives of the study were to assess the current DOE coal program vis-à-vis the provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT), and to recommend the emphasis and priorities that DOE should consider in updating its strategic plan for coal.
A strategic plan for research, development, demonstration, and commercialization (RDD&C) activities for coal should be based on assumptions regarding the future supply and price of competing energy sources, the demand for products manufactured from these sources, technological opportunities, and the need to control the environmental impact of waste streams. These factors change with time. Accordingly, the committee generated strategic planning scenarios for three time periods: near-term, 1995-2005; mid-term, 2006-2020; and long-term, 2021-2040.
It was assumed that coal would not be resource limited during these time periods. Supplies of domestic natural gas were taken to be adequate for current uses, although prices will likely increase because of increased finding and production costs. Imported oil also was assumed to be available at a price that is likely to be more uncertain and that will probably increase faster than that of coal. The committee also assumed that the required level of control of all waste streams from coal systems would increase with time. In particular, the issue of global warming is expected to provide a powerful driving force for improvement in the conversion efficiency of coal to electric power and clean gaseous and liquid fuels.
The most appropriate role for DOE in developing cost competitive, environmentally acceptable coal technologies, as required by EPACT, is strongly dependent on the needs and opportunities for technological advancement in the near-,
mid-, and long-term periods and on domestic and foreign RDD&C programs outside DOE. Comparison of DOE programs and plans with these other activities, with the committee's strategic planning scenarios, and with the goals set by EPACT forms the basis for the committee's recommendations.
At the first committee meeting in November 1993 and at the meetings of the power generation and fuels subgroup and the strategy and policy subgroup, both in January 1994, presentations from DOE staff and others provided an essential information base. Two further committee meetings in March and May 1994, together with a writing group meeting in April attended by John Longwell, Edward Rubin, Robert Hall, George Preston, John Wootten, Harold Schobert, and National Research Council staff, permitted the committee to develop and refine its conclusions and recommendations and to assemble a full draft of the report. The rapid pace at which this complex task was completed called for a high level of participation by committee members and for vigorous and pro-active involvement by the National Research Council program officers, Dr. Jill Wilson and Dr. James Zucchetto, and the project assistant, Ms. Wendy Orr. These contributions, together with those of the many DOE staff members who provided advice and consultation, were noteworthy and highly appreciated.
JOHN P. LONGWELL, CHAIR
Committee on the Strategic Assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy's Coal Program