White House Weighs ‘Alternative Uses’ for Coal Beyond Utilities


(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is seeking alternative uses for coal as it acknowledges its use in generating electricity is declining.

The Energy Department is exploring if critical minerals or rare earth elements -- used in such technology as battery storage -- can be extracted from coal, or coal ash residue, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Friday in a speech at the think tank Atlantic Council.

Battery storage can help bring more renewables online, he said. Other options include exporting it to other nations where demand remains strong and developing technologies that allow to burn more cleanly, such as carbon capture.

“We are going to look for new uses of coal,” Brouillette told reporters after the event. “There is still a bright future for coal we just have to continue to develop it.”

Brouillette’s remarks come as coal’s decline in the U.S. accelerates in the face of cheap natural gas and will provide 13% of U.S. power in 2050, down from 24% today, as power plants close, the Energy Department said in data released last month.

Brouillette said other opportunities to help the industry and the miners it employs include making newer coal plants smaller and more efficient. Brouillette said the department was making $64 million available for that effort, which the agency has billed as “coal plants of the future.”

“We want to see that product being used as cleanly as possible,” he said.

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