Monday, May 28, 2001

Cleaner uses sought for Ohio's plentiful high-sulfur coal




The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio coal could help meet the state's energy needs for generations if environmental and economic restrictions can be satisfied, government and coal industry officials say.

        Ohio coal contains a high level of sulfur, which produces high emissions of the pollutant sulfur dioxide. Under environmental regulations, it cannot be used unless utilities install expensive pollution-control devices.

        Most of the coal burned in Ohio's power plants is brought in from out-of-state areas where the surface-mined coal produces less energy but is lower in sulfur.

        Coal already provides nearly 90 percent of Ohio's electric generating capacity, and electricity use in Ohio is expected to climb 30 percent by 2020, the Dayton Daily News reported Sunday.

        “Any reasonable person has to conclude that coal will be Ohio's primary energy source for the next two or three decades,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio. “We should be investing more in clean coal. If we can solve that problem, it would be fantastic.”

        Research is under way at Ohio University to find ways of making coal more environmentally friendly.

        By the end of this year, Ohio University and Sorbent Technologies of Twinsburg will install technology to reduce harmful emissions at a power plant on the edge of the school's Athens campus.

        “We want to create a living lab out of our power plants,” said Sherwood Wilson, who is in charge of the project.

        Mr. Wilson said he hopes the university can one day build a plant that would serve as an example for power generators around the country.

        A report by the National Resources Defense Council, however, claims that clean coal technology is 40 percent less effective than current smokestack scrubbers in removing sulfur dioxide.

        Ron Sundergill, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the U.S. Department of Energy has spent $2.3 billion on clean coal technology since 1985.

        “We recommend zero funding of clean coal and shift the money into 21st century technology such as renewables, biomass and wind power,” Mr. Sundergill said.

        In addition to new technology, Ohio also has to find a way to increase mining in the state, coal industry officials say.

        In 1970, Ohio mined more than 60 million tons of coal. Now it mines less than 25 million.

        “The Clean Air Act just about killed mining in Ohio,” said Robert Murray of Coal Services Corp., the leading provider of coal in the state.

        Ohio's coal industry also faces shortages of engineers and miners due to lack of work and an aging work force.

        Don Meadows is a fourth-generation miner and a foreman at an Ohio Valley Coal plant. He thinks mining is on the verge of a comeback as areas of the nation become energy deficient.

       



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