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The Future of Coal in a Carbon-Constrained World

May 7, 2008 – Headlines abound that challenge countries, companies and even individuals to reduce their carbon footprint – while at the same time, ever more electricity-hungry equipment, gadgets and appliances are touted to make life easier and more efficient.

With this dilemma at the forefront, experts from across the country will convene a day-long conference May 23, 2008 in Salt Lake City hosted by the University of Utah’s Institute for Clean & Secure Energy. The goal is to discuss options available for utilizing this abundant resource efficiently and cleanly as the world’s appetite for energy grows.

“It is important to tackle this question head-on, with points of view from all over the political spectrum represented,” said Adel Sarofim, Presidential Professor at the U’s Institute for Combustion and Energy Study. “The University is proud to provide a national platform for this discussion.  The University’s expertise flows out of its long history in coal science, its track record with gas and oil projects around the globe and multidisciplinary focus on environmental law and policy. This combination brings together unparalleled talent and experience that we hope will help resolve competing interests of resource development and environmental preservation.”

The Program – The Making of a Clean and Secure Energy Supply

Coal — which supplies 50 percent of U.S. electricity and 95 percent of Utah’s — is the country’s largest fossil-fuel resource. With a 250-year reserve, this domestic and low-cost fuel will likely continue to be a major energy source while the U.S. and world economies transition to other renewable and sustainable sources. The challenge is to find ways to efficiently and effectively reduce carbon emissions in order to mitigate global warming.

Morning speakers will set the stage:  

  • Bob Sawyer, UC Berkeley and former chair of the California Air Resources Board, will provide the current understanding of climate change;
  • John Beer, MIT, will present environmental gains from high-efficiency electrical generation;
  • Neville Holt, Electric Power Research Institute and Julio Friedman from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will discuss the promise, and challenges, of carbon dioxide capture — a technology aimed at trapping CO2 produced by burning coal, before it is released into the atmosphere.

In the afternoon, speakers will consider a wide range of issues:

  • John Deutsch, MIT, will define the challenge of meeting US electricity needs;
  • Joseph Strakey, U.S. Department of Energy, will discuss the value of domestic supplies of energy in a turbulent world;
  • George Peridas, National Resources Defense Council, raises the environmental consequences of CO2 capture;
  • Carol Hunter, Rocky Mountain Power, will provide industry’s point of view on balancing energy resources; and
  • Dianne Nielson, Energy Advisor to Utah Governor Huntsman, will pose the policy options facing the state.

Concluding the day will be a panel discussion with the afternoon’s participants moderated by Praveen Amar with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management. His ability to translate science and technology into workable and cost-effective policy options will help focus the afternoon discussion on the challenges facing the future use of coal for meeting electricity needs. Posters during the breaks will highlight ongoing research at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University directed at reducing the emissions from coal-fired plants.

The conference is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of the Research Vice President at the University of Utah. It will be held at the Salt Lake City Main Library, is free and open to the public. The full program, schedule and registration form are available online at: