When it comes to coal, the United States is what the Middle East is for oil. That fact is not lost on an industry competing for relevancy at a time when it’s undersold by natural gas and renewable energy. It’s not lost on the coal-producing towns in the nation that have long relied on the mineral for jobs and economic development.
And it’s certainly not lost on Greg Merle, whose company is pitching what he hopes — what he believes — might just be the answer for a declining industry desperate to remain viable.
Merle is the president of Riverview Energy Corporation, which is proposing to build a “clean coal” diesel plant in Spencer County. It would be the first such plant in the U.S., quite possibly pushing Indiana to the forefront of the nation’s often contentious and political debate over clean coal.
“We firmly believe this is an important project,” Merle said, “not just for us and the state of Indiana, but for the U.S. and the world and the energy industry as a whole. “For the near term, we are at least going to slow down taking a lump of coal and lighting it on fire, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need fuels.”
But as energy companies, local development corporations and mining communities cling to the promise of “innovative” technologies to keep coal relevant, skeptics are asking whether the risk of such projects — which often involve cost overruns, produce an expensive product and emit significant pollutants — is worth the reward.