By Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy 

The Keystone State has had an essential role in our Republic since its founding, and today, Pennsylvania continues to have an essential place, especially in cleaner energy production.

Thanks to research conducted by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and its facilities in Pittsburgh, PA, the United States continues to lead the world in reducing energy-related carbon emissions.

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Coal-fired electricity generation is cleaner than ever. NETL’s research shows that a new coal plant with pollution controls reduces nitrogen oxides by 83 percent, sulfur dioxide by 98 percent, and particulate matter by 99.8 percent compared to plants without controls.

But that’s not all the Keystone State and DOE have to offer. Pennsylvania is also a major player in our Nation’s natural gas portfolio. And DOE’s private and public sector partners across the state are driving the growth of American manufacturing, enhancing energy security and diversity, and advancing fossil fuel innovation.

As the third-largest coal producing state, Pennsylvania is a crucial member of America’s coal industry. Furthermore, Pennsylvania coal is some of the highest quality coal in the world and can be used not only for its heating value but also for its carbon content.  

To that end, DOE is researching and developing an entirely new market for coal that uses the carbon value of coal, not the heating value. Coal’s high carbon content makes it an ideal feedstock for a variety of high-value materials ranging from carbon fiber to graphene to building materials. Coal can also serve as a feedstock for hydrogen production. Hydrogen is a transitional carbon-free energy source that can be used for power generation and as a transportation fuel.

This work is key. According to NETL, over the next 30 years, new coal production of 145-345 million tons could result in 47,500 coal mining jobs. The carbon products could also result in product value of near $139 billion and 480,000 manufacturing jobs tied directly to carbon products.

To continue to reap the many benefits of coal, we need to make it cleaner. DOE is doing its part via a new initiative called Coal FIRST, which will lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s coal plants by making them flexible, innovative, resilient, small, and transformative. Our goal is that one day those plants will become emissions-free.

Across the country, we’re also working with our private sector partners to advance the commercial deployment of carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS, technologies. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to commercializing CCUS are the costs associated with carbon capture, which represent 75 percent of total CCUS costs.

Overall, we need to reduce carbon capture costs by about 50 percent, and we’re engaged in world-leading research and development to produce the technologies to get us there.

The Keystone State is central to America’s energy strategy and national security in supplying rare-earth elements to U.S. manufacturing chains. Our Nation’s coal reserves contain vast quantities of these elements, which are used in items ranging from defense technology to health care and from cell phones to jet engines. We need these elements so that we can rely on American producers and manufacturers, instead of foreign adversaries.

Pennsylvania’s private and public sector leaders are playing a key role in advancing the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. By fostering increases in clean coal and natural gas production, we’re helping to ensure reliable energy for the American people, bringing back American jobs, and increasing national security.


For more information see the Clean Coal Technology video.

Steven Winberg
Steve Winberg served as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy (FE).
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