Energy Coal Policy in the 112th Congress: Objectives, Tools, and Compromises

If the 111th Congress aimed to push the use of energy coal in the United States quickly down a steep slope, the 112th Congress may provide an opportunity to pick out an alternate descent to the sustainable use of an abundant domestic fuel. The path is strewn with environmental boulders and thickets – anthropogenic climate change, emission of air toxics, disposition of coal combustion residues, and fine particulate and ozone air quality impacts. On the other hand, geopolitical concerns make domestic energy security and an expanded reliance on coal a high priority, while at the same time a weakened global economy counsels against any dramatic shift in energy policy that adversely impacts job creation or productivity. This article briefly outlines, in two parts, how a divided Congress and Administration might work with – and against – each other in the next two years to navigate these oftentimes conflicting goals.

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