IER Senior Fellow Mary Hutzler will testify Tuesday before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. In a hearing titled, “Mining in America: Powder River Basin Coal Mining the Benefits and Challenges,” Hutzler’s testimony shows that the United States has vast coal resources worth trillions to the U.S. economy, but federal policies are restricting access to these resources. Highlights of Hutzler’s testimony include:
- The federal government owns 957 billion short tons of coal in the lower 48 states, of which about 550 billion short tons—about 57 percent—are available in the Powder River Basin.
- The Powder River Basin is the largest coal-producing region in the nation, accounting for over two-fifths of all coal mined in the United States. In 2011, the Powder River Basin produced 462.6 million short tons of subbituminous coal used mainly for electricity generation.
- Federally-owned coal in the lower 48 states is worth $22.5 trillion to the economy. Only 1.5 percent of federal unleased lands have been determined to be available for coal production under standard government lease terms.
- The United States has enough coal reserves to last at least another 250 years, with reserves that are over one-and-one-half times greater than our nearest competitor, Russia, and over twice that of China. This figure excludes Alaska, which contains more coal reserves than all of the lower 48 states combined.
- China is constructing some coal plants that are cleaner than those allowed to be built in the United States. An irony of U.S. regulatory policy is that China may ultimately become the world’s supplier of the most advanced clean coal plants, despite the U.S. coal resource base which dwarfs China’s.
Almost all of the coal in the Powder River Basin is federally owned. Therefore, mine expansions require federal and state approvals and are dependent on actions from the BLM. Yet similar to oil and natural gas, coal production on federal and Indian lands has declined in recent years. Moreover, fewer coal lease sales have taken place on federal lands on average during the Obama administration than during the prior two administrations. The administration’s commitment to limiting access to the nation’s vast coal reserves constricts our economic growth and portends higher energy prices for Americans.
To read Hutzler’s full testimony, click here (pdf).