Coal in a Changing Climate
This index collects policy documents about the implications of the world's reliance on coal.
These NRDC analyses examine the changing climate for coal production and use in the United States and China, the world's two largest producers and consumers of coal. Coal is abundant and superficially cheap compared with the soaring price of oil and natural gas. But the true costs of conventional coal extraction and use are dear. If coal-fired power plants currently under development in these two countries are built as planned they will lock us in to a future of devastated landscapes, damaged public health, and dangerous global warming. Many of these proposed plants will be avoided through energy efficiency and more use of renewable energy. It is also essential that the best available emission control technology is applied, including systems that capture and safely dispose of carbon dioxide, whenever and wherever coal is used.
Why Liquid Coal Is Not a Viable Option to Move America Beyond Oil (pdf)
December 2011 Fact Sheet
The coal industry is touting a plan to transform millions of tons of coal into diesel and other liquid fuels -- an expensive, inefficient process that releases large quantities of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our air. Fortunately, better, cleaner options exist to reduce America's dependence on oil: efficiency, smart growth and renewable fuels.
There Is No Such Thing as "Clean Coal": Coal Mining Can Have Disastrous Impacts on Human Health and the Environment (pdf)
March 2008 Fact Sheet
Compared to the soaring price of oil and natural gas, coal might seem cheap. But appearances are deceiving: the true costs of conventional coal extraction and use are significant. The conventional coal fuel cycle is among the most destructive activities on earth, threatening our health, fouling our air and water, harming our land, and contributing to global warming. Fortunately, there are solutions available right now: Energy efficiency and renewable resources can help us meet our energy demands without the negative impacts of coal.
No Time Like the Present: NRDC's Response to MIT's 'Future of Coal' Report (pdf)
March 2007 Brief
Although MIT's report on the Future of Coal recognizes the role that carbon dioxide capture and geological storage plays in urgently needed action for curbing global warming, it fails to address a critical question facing U.S. policymakers: What carbon dioxide requirements should be applied to new coal power plants? This NRDC commentary answers that question: Congress should require all planned new coal plants in the United States to employ carbon capture and storage systems without further delay.
Coal in a Changing Climate (pdf)
February 2007 Issue Paper
There is no such thing as "clean coal"; the conventional coal fuel cycle is among the most environmentally destructive activities on earth. But there are better alternatives: energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. In addition, steps can be taken now to reduce destructive mining practices and to apply state-of-the-art pollution controls, including CO2 control systems, to sources that use coal. This issue paper analyzes coal use in the United States and China and outlines the necessary steps for minimizing the destructive effects of coal.
Return Carbon to the Ground: Reducing Global Warming Pollution and Enhancing Oil Recovery (pdf)
June 2006 Fact Sheet
Coal gasification with carbon capture and disposal (CCD) technologies -- which corral carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and pump it into natural geologic structures deep in the Earth -- are an important part of mitigating the damage done by burning coal.
last revised 2/29/2012
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