Mining CEO: Coal remains vital fuel mix in today’s world

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DENVER (AP) — Rising demand for energy means coal will remain a vital part of the mix of fuels and the mining industry needs to do a better job of spreading that message and responding to environmental concerns, the chief executive of Chevron Mining said last week.
Mark Smith said the industry has to address concerns that carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants is contributing to climate change while also getting across that coal and other fossil fuels will be needed to meet the increasing demand for energy.
“We’ve got to be safer. We’ve got to be cleaner. We’ve got to be more environmentally acceptable to the public,” Smith told the audience at the 110th Annual National Western Mining Conference in a downtown Denver hotel.
All that’s essential because the need for fossil fuels isn’t diminishing, he added.
“We still need coal. We still need natural gas. We still need oil,” Smith said.
Environmentalists, however, said more utilities are diversifying their energy sources in part because of anticipated regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions. States, including Colorado, are adopting plans to cut greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, by cracking down on power plant and vehicle emissions.
In October, the top environmental regulator in Kansas denied a permit for two coal-fired power plants, citing concerns about the potential carbon dioxide emissions. Legislators have proposed overturning the decision.
“You’re starting to see utilities rethinking how to meet energy demands in a carbon-constrained world,” said John Nielsen of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, an environmental law and policy group.
Nielsen said utilities are looking to such renewable energy sources as wind, solar and conservation.
But Smith, whose Englewood-based company owns coal and metal mines, said all energy sources will be needed. He said a federal report released last year predicts that the demand for energy will grow 60 percent by 2030 and that fossil fuels will account for 83 percent to 87 percent of the sources.
The report by the National Petroleum Council, a group formed by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman that included industry, government and academic experts, said fossil fuels “will remain indispensable.”
Even so, renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency will be crucial, Smith added.
“In order to meet the growing demands, we’re going to need every form of energy out there,” Smith said.
Craig Cox, executive director of the Colorado-based Interwest Energy Alliance, a trade and advocacy group, said he believes the country will increasingly move toward renewable energy and energy efficiency and away from higher-polluting fuels.
“We need to look ahead. We shouldn’t just predicate everything on how we’ve done it the last 125 years,” Cox said.