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Washington University hosts debate over future of coal

Debaters Fred Palmer (left) and Bruce Nilles (right), with moderator Bryan Walsh.
(Photo credit: V. LaCapra)
Debaters Fred Palmer (left) and Bruce Nilles (right), with moderator Bryan Walsh.

By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – The debate pitted Peabody Energy against the Sierra Club.

The Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Peabody Energy, Fred Palmer, said that our current energy production capacity cannot support sustained economic growth worldwide.

"Coal reserves around the globe are sufficient to provide for centuries of expanded clean coal use, to allow more people to live longer and live better."

The director of the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign, Bruce Nilles, said that "clean coal" technologies like carbon capture and sequestration have yet to be implemented at any U.S. powerplant. Nilles said coal-fueled power plants currently produce 80 percent of the U.S. electric sector's greenhouse gases.

According to a recent National Research Council study, said Nilles, the three coal plants near St. Louis are generating enough soot and smog to cost area residents 750 million dollars in health care expenses.

"750 million dollars that all of you are bearing, because the coal industry refuses to put modern pollution controls on those coal plants."

Fred Palmer said that in the future, "clean coal" technologies would reduce power plant emissions to near zero.

Peabody Energy is the largest private-sector coal company in the world, fueling 10 percent of U.S. electricity production.