May 23, 2019

Report: Coal’s revival is in high tech

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new report commissioned by the Energy Department recommends promoting coal for use in other, higher tech ways than electricity.

Why it matters: The report, authored by coal executives, is an implicit acknowledgment that despite President Trump’s so far empty promises to help economically struggling coal plants, coal’s past as America’s dominant power source is no reflection on its future.

The big picture: Coal’s share of the U.S. electricity mix has plummeted from nearly 50% to below 30% in the past decade, fueled by growth in cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas and tougher environmental regulations.

Where it stands: The report was written by the National Coal Council, a federal advisory committee to Energy Secretary Rick Perry made up of executives across the coal industry. It finds that coal can be refined into what can seem like limitless products, but the ones with the most growth potential include:

  • Carbon fiber as a lighter weight and stronger replacement for steel and aluminum in cars, wind turbines and more.
  • Rare earth minerals, which are used in a wide variety of renewable energy technologies.
  • Graphene, a material used in medical devices.

What’s next: The report, which is being sent to Perry on Thursday, recommends the Energy Department create a research and development program to help bring down the costs of these technologies and also to find ways to encourage private investment into this space.

Go deeper: Coal seeks new life in high tech

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Tech can't remember what to do in a down market

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Wall Street's two-day-old coronavirus crash is a wakeup alarm for Silicon Valley.

The big picture: Tech has been booming for so long the industry barely remembers what a down market feels like — and most companies are ill-prepared for one.

Brace yourself for a coronavirus outbreak

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Public-health officials’ warnings about the coronavirus are sounding increasingly urgent, with one top CDC official asking the public yesterday "to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

Reality check: Other administration officials, including President Trump himself, were more subdued in their assessments. But underneath those tonal differences, the reality of the coronavirus is the same: It spreads quickly, and has already spread to many countries, making it likely to start spreading here, too.

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Exclusive: Pro-Trump group plans post-Super Tuesday blitz on Democrats

Democratic presidential hopefuls take the debate stage in South Carolina. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action is preparing to unleash a series of targeted, swing-state attacks on the Democrats most likely to face President Trump after Super Tuesday, people familiar with the group's plans tell me in an exclusive preview of its strategy.

The state of play: The group has been tracking favorable/unfavorable ratings in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania for 2020 candidates Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg — under the theory that if Trump wins each of these six states he would win re-election.