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Coal gasification is a process that converts coal from a solid to a gaseous state. The gas that is created is very similar to natural gas and can be used to make chemicals, fertilizer, and/or electricity.

Cleanest of all coal-based electric power technologies, gasification has significantly lower levels of air emissions (including volatile mercury), solid wastes, and wastewater.

Due to its high efficiencies, gasification also uses less coal to produce the same amount of energy, resulting in lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some scientists believe that CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to a "greenhouse effect" that will lead to global warming.

Coal gasification has proven technology for capturing CO2 at a fraction of the cost required for coal combustion technologies. The United States is debating whether CO2 abatement should be required for all new and existing coal power plants.

Gasification provides the only economically feasible route for production of hydrogen from coal. Because hydrogen-powered vehicles are nearly pollution-free, many people favor a long-term program to convert America's cars, trucks, and buses to hydrogen.

In summary, coal gasification is a proven technology that can utilize America's 250+ years of coal reserves to produce clean electricity, fuels, and chemicals, and to provide a bridge to a future hydrogen-based economy.

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2004-2009 Fred H. Hutchison

Edited on: May 27, 2009