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The Department of Energy Allocates $6.5 Million to Coal-Powered Programs

The Department of Energy (DOE) is allocating a total of approximately $6.5 million toward investing in research and development of larger-scale coal-powered systems, the agency announced on Thursday.

The DOE office that specializes in fossil energy worked with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, a national laboratory under the DOE that researches clean production of energy resources, to allocate the funding to the first phase of the fossil fuel pilot programs. The initiative, announced by the DOE in August of 2017 with an initial investment of $50 million, consists of three phases, and is meant to "improve coal-powered systems' performance, efficiency, emission reduction, and cost of electricity."

The United States continues to invest in coal-technology development, to "make sure when fossil fuels are used that they can be as clean and efficient as possible," said George Banks, an energy adviser to President Donald Trump, in November, following the Trump administration's decision to not join a coalition of 19 countries that had vowed to phase out coal. Coal emits more carbon than any other fuel source, causing ecological destruction and negatively impacting the health of millions.

The additional $65 million investment comes after stages of the project "demonstrated technical success at the small-scale pilot stage." These funds will launch the first stage of the pilot project, which will evaluate feasibility, costs, and schedule for future design, construction, and operation of the next phases.

The projects selected in the first phase will receive investments ranging from about $15,000 to almost $1 million. The Southwest Research Institute will receive $998,862, the largest amount in funding from the DOE, to evaluate and provide detailed design and metrics for a large-scale coal-combustion pilot plant. The effort in Southwest's project is aimed at addressing key systems that "require additional development beyond what is commercially available to ensure" maximum efficiency, the DOE wrote in Thursday's announcement.

The next two phases focus on design, completing the National Environmental Policy Act process, which assesses the environmental impact of a federal project, and the construction and operation of large-scale facilities.