During the 20th century, dramatic shifts took place in the types and sources of energy consumed in the United States. The future energy mix and the technologies used in fuel combustion will be critical in determining the economic and environmental health of the Nation as we move ahead in the 21st century. Coal was a major primary energy source within the United States for all of the last century, and, currently, coal is used to generate more than 50 percent of the Nation's electric energy. Coal supplies are adequate within the United States for this century and coal is the least expensive of the fossil fuels, making it a reliable and economical source of energy. Recent studies, however, suggest that an increased use of coal may contribute to the degradation of the environment and to global warming. A thorough understanding of coal quality will lead to the development of methods to better control the harmful effects of coal use on the environment and human health.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is actively involved in research on the quality and abundance of coal, as well as on the complex geological and geochemical factors that govern coal quality. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey gathers information on the location, size, and nature of coal deposits, which also contributes to a basic understanding of the Nation's energy resources. This research is pertinent to discussions of future energy resources, global warming, and the dependence of the Nation on imported fossil fuels—all of which are concerns that are being faced daily at local, State, and National levels. Understanding the nature of coal quality is important for two critical issues facing our Nation—the economy and the environment.
The wise use of our Nation's resources and the careful stewardship of our public lands depend on the dissemination of accurate and timely earth science information. The U.S. Geological Survey is proud to present this report on one of the major issues to be addressed in the future use of coal.
Charles G. Groat
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: https:// pubs.usgs.gov /circ/c1143/html/foreword.html
For more information, contact Stanley Schweinfurth
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