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Commentary: Support export of clean coal technology

By State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria

Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the world. It is used to heat homes and factories, power industry, and generate electricity. The United States, and many developed and emerging nations around the world, has an abundance of this resource. In fact, experts estimate there is enough coal underground to provide energy for the next 250 years.

Although America's industrial revolution and subsequent evolution into a world superpower was made possible with coal, the modern era does not acknowledge the benefits of coal power. Millions of people around the world live without electricity. In the absence of this vital resource, their economies lag and their populace suffers from inadequate healthcare and education. Choosing to rely predominantly on renewable fuels is simply not an option in places like India where 550 million live with little or no electricity, or in sub-Saharan Africa where the number of people without electricity is more than 600 million and rapidly growing. In less developed regions of the world, coal is an accessible and viable way to help ease the devastating effects of energy poverty.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other global organizations have taken a rigid stance against coal for the developing world. The current World Bank investment protocol is to finance new coal projects only in rare and limited circumstances. In the past five years, this international organization has funded no new coal activities. Thus, despite significant coal capacities, regions of the developing world are not able to uplift their economies and standards of living due to their inability to secure investment in coal technologies.

Thirty years ago, fossil fuels accounted for 81 percent of the world's energy consumption. Today, fossil fuels still make up 81 percent of the global energy consumption despite strides made in the renewable energy sector. The lesson is this: Fossil fuels are not going anywhere, and if the World Bank and IMF refuse to fund efforts to power energy-starved regions of the world with American and allied clean coal technologies, other competing entities will fill the void.

The Chinese, for example, understand clean coal technologies are the wave of the future. Therefore, they are investing heavily in High-Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) technology around the globe. While certainly laudable from an environmental standpoint, their involvement threatens future U.S. efforts.

The Obama era dealt a stinging blow to the U.S. coal industry, and in recent years, coal exports have fallen by more than 40 percent. Clean coal technologies can help reverse this trend, revitalize the American coal industry, and encourage economic development around the world.

I encourage the Trump administration and our Minnesota congressional delegation to support the export of clean coal technology as a way to reverse energy poverty in the developing world.