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McCain lauds Consol's work in clean coal

Sen. John McCain, on a tour of Consol Energy's research and development campus in South Park on Wednesday, praised the energy giant for its research into cleaner-burning coal technology.

"Coal is America's greatest natural resource, as far as energy is concerned," McCain said. "We sit on the world's largest supply of it."

Both McCain and rival Sen. Barack Obama include "clean coal" in their energy platforms, saying the massive domestic supply can help ease the United States' reliance on foreign oil.

Consol's role, as one of the country's largest coal producers, will be central, McCain said. The company produced 67.4 million tons of coal from its 17 mines in six states during 2007 and has reserves of about 4.3 billion tons. It is the largest producer of coal from underground mines in the country.

"The technology here, right here at Consol, that's being developed here, is capable of creating and will create hundreds of thousands of jobs as we adopt clean coal technology," McCain said.

As McCain took a brief tour of the facility and met with six coal, gas and steel executives, Obama's campaign announced a new Web advertisement criticizing McCain's plans.

The two have differed sharply in the last few weeks over whether to allow drilling off U.S. coasts and whether to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax.

Obama says the "gas tax holiday" won't provide enough relief, and increased drilling won't result in more oil for at least seven years.

McCain says the plans won't fix the nation's energy problems, but would provide some of the relief Americans are looking for.

Brett Harvey, Consol's CEO, told McCain during a roundtable discussion that government should invest $2 billion in clean coal research. Referring to the amount McCain proposed in his energy plan, Harvey said, "Your number is about right."

"Probably because we got it from you," McCain joked, before immediately clarifying that his campaign in fact consulted with a wide range of interests, from coal executives to environmental advocates. "Actually, we talked to environmentalists, we talked to everyone -- a little sarcasm there."

McCain's tour of the research facilities took him through a research silo where Consol engineers are trying to perfect a way to burn waste coal. The coal, which is a mix of fine coal and rock, usually gets dumped into ponds because it's too costly to separate and burn for energy.

Like most clean coal technology, an alternative has been around for years, but energy costs were never high enough to justify it, said Tom Hoffman, the company's senior vice president for investor relations.

The method, which has been put to use in at least six European power plants, involves burning the coal in high-pressure cylinders. The added benefit is that the pressure makes it easy to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

Waste coal is one of three areas of focus for Consol's department of research and development. The two others are greenhouse gases and non-greenhouse pollutants, such as mercury, emitted by burning coal.

"We're also playing around with ways to capture coal mine methane," Hoffman said. He cited a small methane-capture experiment in Greene County, where gas coming out of a mine fed a small turbine. The energy was donated to a local school district, he said.

The size of the country's coal reserves puts the United States on par with any other nation, in terms of its energy capability, Hoffman said.

"We sit, in this region as well as in this country, on a huge pool of energy that we would be foolish not to use," he said. Concerns about global warming can be addressed without abandoning coal. "The answer shouldn't be that we simply walk away from coal because we're worried about the CO2 emissions."

CARBON NATION

Clean coal technology figures prominently in the energy proposals of both Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. Upper St. Clair-based Consol Energy Inc. divides its research into three areas:

� Greenhouse gas emissions. One plan is to convert methane into oxygen before it can become carbon dioxide. Another plan involves taking carbon dioxide from coal plants and pumping it into coal seams too deep to mine.

� Waste coal. Coal that's too closely bonded to rock often gets thrown into ponds as waste. Consol engineers believe they can power 700,000 homes by burning the waste coal in high-pressure cylinders. The pressure makes it easy to capture the carbon dioxide.

� Non-greenhouse gases. A low-cost mercury reduction system is getting a trial run at an Allegheny Energy coal-fired power plant. The system cools the gas from the burning coal and absorbs more than 90 percent of the mercury before it can be emitted.

Source: Consol Energy Additional Information:

Carbon nation

Clean coal technology figures prominently in the energy proposals of both Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. Upper St. Clair-based Consol Energy Inc. divides its research into three areas:

• Greenhouse gas emissions. One plan is to convert methane into oxygen before it can become carbon dioxide. Another plan involves taking carbon dioxide from coal plants and pumping it into coal seams too deep to mine.

• Waste coal. Coal that's too closely bonded to rock often gets thrown into ponds as waste. Consol engineers believe they can power 700,000 homes by burning the waste coal in high-pressure cylinders. The pressure makes it easy to capture the carbon dioxide.

• Non-greenhouse gases. A low-cost mercury reduction system is getting a trial run at an Allegheny Energy coal-fired power plant. The system cools the gas from the burning coal and absorbs more than 90 percent of the mercury before it can be emitted.

Source: Consol Energy

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