August produced a convergence of energy ideas and discussions in our region, with a visit from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to the National Energy and Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va., and the fourth annual Energy Symposium in Southpointe.
At both events, coal, our region’s oldest and still vital commercial energy source, was a major topic of discussion.
For that reason, coal takes center stage in this month’s Energy Report, with a feature story about its projected future, which is at once promising yet undetermined.
The Appalachian Basin has always been a major player in the nation’s coal output for domestic power generation and steelmaking and, in more recent times, a big exporter of the fuel to developing countries, as well as Europe.
That status is greatly buttressed by Southpointe-based Consol Energy, the basin’s largest diversified energy producer and a major exporter of coal.
Our stories cover what Secretary Moniz envisions as a technological solution for coal to continue to be a major part of this country’s energy portfolio, as well as a major contributor to jobs and the economy with its growing amount of exports.
If a tech solution is to come, it will no doubt be created in this region, at least in part by the labs at NETL, the government’s only energy lab dedicated to research on fossil fuels.
The fruits of that research will be critical, as the country is already seeing the effects of more stringent regulations on the use of coal in power generation plants. Jeff Kotula’s column looks at the recent announced closure of two coal-fired plants in Greene and Washington counties and comments on the negative economic impact those closures will have close to home.
Shifting to natural gas, the region’s most rapidly growing fuel source – thanks to the growing output of gas from the Marcellus Shale strata – we cover Range Resources’ commitment to the gas as a transportation fuel, one that has the potential of making America energy independent, while making commercial and private vehicles less polluting.
As Range’s Scott Roy comments in our coverage from the annual Energy Symposium, “We’re still in the early stages” of natural gas production. One of the challenges will be to develop markets for the abundant fuel now coming from the shale deposits here and around the country, and its role as a transportation fuel appears to be growing.
Regardless of which fuel you use for travel, making a stop for local food – the fuel for travelers themselves – can be a pleasurable, if not informing experience, as noted by J.R. Shaw in his column about the importance of local restaurants and eateries in our area’s tourism offerings.
From coal’s outlook to the continuing rise of shale gas and the ongoing advancements in alternative fuels and power generation, the Energy Report strives to cover the developments that are shaping the region’s and the country’s energy future.