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With my latest Harder Line column, I wanted to find a new angle about coal that wasn't the tired "Trump can't revive coal" storyline. I found a lot, including support for new coal technologies within the Energy Department. I'll share that, and then Ben Geman will you get you up to speed on the rest of the news.
Randy Atkins is trying to make coal great again, but not how President Trump has promised.
The intrigue: Atkins’ company, Ramaco Carbon, is working to open what would be Wyoming’s first coal mine devoted not to electricity, but to high-tech products like carbon fiber or 3D printing material. Atkins represents the leading edge of what could be a new, high-value market for coal after decades of being America’s cheapest power source.
Driving the news: A high-tech carbon industry could support an average of 2,600 jobs annually through 2035 in Wyoming, which is about a quarter of the state’s current manufacturing workforce. That's according to a report released today by American Jobs Project, a nonpartisan California-based think tank that looks at how advanced energy tech can drive local economies.
The environmental and climate change impact of high-tech coal is less compelling than its economic potential.
What’s next: The National Coal Council, a federal advisory committee to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is preparing to write a report examining how coal can expand beyond electricity into products. It has asked Atkins to chair the effort, according to a draft letter viewed by Axios.
Read more in the Axios stream.
Tesla's board plans to meet this week to lay out a path for reviewing CEO Elon Musk's plan to take the company private at $420-per-share, according to reports in CNBC and elsewhere.
Why it matters: Tesla is a pivotal player in electric vehicle markets, but there are big questions and immediate controversies surrounding Musk's plan. Some big ones include...
A couple other things on my radar...
Shale: The latest Energy Information Administration monthly snapshot of shale oil-and-gas production, called the Drilling Productivity Report, lands later today.
Congress: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gathers Thursday to hear from White House nominees for two big Energy Department jobs — general counsel and head of DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
"The wildcard here is vehicle miles traveled...Whether or not that is bent up or down by ride-sharing and AVs is going to determine whether or not we are ever going to meet a climate target."— Costa Samaras, assistant professor of engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
The context: That's Samaras responding to a question about whether the rise of ride-hailing companies and autonomous vehicles will spur growth or reductions in carbon emissions.
Why it matters: Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions — in fact it's now the largest source in the U.S. A big question is how seismic changes in mobility enabled by companies like Uber and Lyft — and eventually the adoption of advanced driverless tech — will affect the climate.
(Note: Nelder offers a roughly 20-minute excerpt of each podcast episode for free, but I recommend buying a subscription to get the entire interviews.)
Cobalt miners sorting minerals on the road between Kolwezi and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 15. Photo: Samir Tounsi/AFP via Getty Images
A few recent pieces in our Expert Voices section are worth your time...
Microgrids: Andy Huan of Schneider Electric unpacks the role microgrids can play in the overhaul of the nation's rusty power network, noting they offer a promising way to provide stable, green and cost-efficient energy.
Natural gas: David Livingston of The Atlantic Council looks at the role of natural gas in the transition to decarbonized power.
Coal: Anna Mikulska of the Baker Institute's Center for Energy Studies sizes up the implications of strong coal demand in developing countries and explains why it remains such an attractive fuel.
Batteries: Maggie Teliska of Caldwell Intellectual Property looks at the role of cobalt — a vital material with a supply chain linked to human rights abuses — in electric vehicle batteries.
Power: Politico reported last week that the White House plans to tap Bernard McNamee, a top DOE policy aide, for the vacant spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Shale: Per WSJ, "American oil companies — primed to reap the benefits of rising prices after years of wringing more from wells for less — are seeing profits erode in the face of rising costs."
Deepwater: The Financial Times reports that Royal Dutch Shell is eyeing a "cash bonanza from traditional deepwater projects despite a growing focus on new US shale investments."
Cybersecurity: A new FiveThirtyEight feature notes that cyber threats against U.S. power networks are very real, but explains why fears of a catastrophic attack are probably overblown.
Here are a few pieces that put today's headlines into context...
LNG: Over at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Nikos Tsafos has a helpful and lucid primer about the prospect for expanded U.S. LNG shipments to Europe.
Electric vehicles: A McKinsey & Co. analysis published last week has a two-part conclusion about what EV growth will (and won't) mean for power demand.
Climate change: Over at The Federalist Society, a series of arguments and counter-arguments explores local government lawsuits that seek to use public nuisance laws to force oil companies to pay for climate-related damages, such as sea-level rise.