Efforts to prevent coal trains from coming to Washington are escalating because of growing concern about local contamination and potential impact of burning coal on the global environment. There appears to be little concern for the negative impact this would have on our country's coal industry and our state's job outlook. Coal is still a critical source of energy around the world. We should, I think, be more creative in the way we address such problems. After all, this is America — the home of free enterprise and entrepreneurs.
Coal gasification could be the answer. Around 80 percent of the energy in coal is extracted, the technology is now mature, and the process is environmentally friendly. The technology is already being used in China and several other countries. They are also exploring underground (in situ) coal gasification which leaves the most toxic elements (mercury, arsenic, lead) largely underground. Incorporating this technology would allow the industry to export "value-added" product, which would address both the contamination and air-quality issues, while strengthening the industry, providing jobs, and satisfying the global need for energy.
Hugh Bilson Lewis