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America’s diverse energy portfolio may look a lot different depending on who becomes the next President of the United States. However, both candidates should embrace homegrown biotechnology as an economic and environmental solution for our local communities and energy industry.
This country’s coal industry has been a top employer for more than a century and accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s overall electricity generation. However, a recent study found that more than 50,000 coal jobs have been lost since 2008, and with imminent carbon reduction legislation coming down the federal court pipeline, American voters are calling for a viable solution to combat these challenges so that more jobs are not lost.
Solutions offered by Clinton and Trump have fallen along party lines and predictably offered an all or nothing approach. Instead, the candidates should be considering ways to utilize technology to reduce emissions from coal power plants so the industry can stay afloat.
A bipartisan approach exists. In the Midwest, farmers have joined forces with coal experts and engineers to develop an upgraded version of biomass – a renewable energy source made of agricultural waste— that protects the environment and keeps costs low.
It is made using patented rotary compression technology, which transforms abundant, annually renewable agricultural waste into a fuel that blends with traditional coal to produce a cleaner, more sustainable source of electricity. When fired along with coal, or “co-fired,” the product helps coal last longer and provide greater efficiency than ever before.
What takes nature millions of years to create can now be produced in two minutes and forty seconds— without the harmful carbon emissions.
Europe has taken advantage of a similar version of biomass, which has given agriculturally rich countries an opportunity to meet carbon emission targets established during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
In Finland, for example, biomass accounts for 20 percent of the country’s energy consumption, which has saved countless jobs while helping the country meet necessary carbon reduction targets. Similar success stories can be found in Sweden, Hungary and Germany. These advancements were made possible because the European Commission on Energy produced a series of sustainability criteria to ensure biomass is used in a way that guarantees carbon savings while protecting biodiversity.
Considering the homegrown developments with biotechnology, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore a renewable energy source that can make a significant impact across the country. In an encouraging step, the Environmental Protection Agency recently discussed ways to integrate biomass into the country’s clean energy mix, but time is of the essence. Clinton, Trump and policymakers must study this cost-effective, viable option quickly so that coal communities are able to easily transition into a more sustainable future.
State legislators in coal communities can help by advancing the technology and implementing statewide environmental policies to encourage its use. Electric utilities also have an opportunity to begin understanding and testing the product now, rather than waiting on imminent regulations to work their way through the judicial system.
One thing is certain: the clock is ticking for America’s coal industry and the longer presidential candidates and policymakers wait to solve the problem, the more difficult it will become.
Nancy Heimann is the CEO of Enginuity Worldwide, a Missouri-based company focused on biotechnology.