In Brief: What the Waxman-Markey Bill Does for Coal

Coal is an inexpensive and abundant domestic energy resource; the United States has larger coal reserves than any other country—likely enough to sustain current production levels for more than two centuries. Coal prices are generally less volatile than those of either oil or natural gas, and coal-fueled power plants can reliably provide large amounts of baseload electricity generation. Unfortunately, coal is also the most greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive energy source. While half of all U.S. electricity comes from coal, coal is responsible for 80 percent of all GHG emissions from electricity generation, which means nearly thirty percent of all U.S. GHG emissions come from coal-fueled electric power plants. Globally, CO2 emissions from coal use accounted for 41 percent of total fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2006, with the United States and China together accounting for nearly 60 percent of all CO2 emissions from coal use. Obviously, reductions in U.S. and global GHG emissions sufficient to address the threat of climate change require reducing emissions from coal use. Fortunately, a suite of technologies exists—known as carbon capture and storage—that can enable coal to play a significant role in a low-carbon energy future.