Economic and population growth have led to a three-fold increase in energy consumption in the United States since 1950. Imports of oil and other petroleum products have increased by more than 500 percent since 1960, including imports from politically unstable regions, and now represent about 55 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects that overall, U.S. energy demand will grow by 33 percent between 2000 and 2020, accompanied by further increases in our dependence upon imported energy. However, the United States relies on domestically produced coal for more than 50 percent of all electric generation, the cleanest and fastest growing source of energy for industry and consumers. The United States has 275 years of remaining coal reserves at current rates of consumption, representing a potential energy resource equivalent to the world’s remaining oil reserves. Furthermore, emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOX), and other pollutants by coal-based electric generation plants have declined by one-third since 1970, while total electric utility coal use has tripled. Further improvements in the efficiency and environmental performance of electric generation and other energy technologies can assist states in meeting their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, including attainment and maintenance of EPA’s revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter.

Technological advances in coal-based power generation technologies can yield future plants designed at a near zero-emissions level, including the elimination of regulated air pollutants and the control or capture of greenhouse gas emissions. Research and development programs aimed at improved forestry and soil management practices can increase the terrestrial sequestration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, facilitating our ability to use domestic fossil energy resources in an environmentally- responsible manner. Accelerated progress in the commercial deployment of clean energy technologies, including fossil and renewable energy sources, will depend mainly upon the research and development resource commitments of private industry and state and federal governments. Public universities and other centers of higher education can contribute significantly to, and benefit from, the enhancement of research efforts focused on clean energy technologies.


The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments encourages the significant expansion of federal and state research and development programs for clean energy technology development, with a view toward the rapid commercialization of advanced clean energy technologies. Further, the SLC urges Congress to ensure that new and expanded federal programs for clean energy technology development give high priority to the development of near zero-emitting clean coal electric power technologies. The SLC encourages increased federal-state research and development of carbon sequestration programs, including the enhancement of sequestration through improved forestry management and agricultural practices.  Finally, the SLC urges that this position of the organization be dispatched to the appropriate officials, including the U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, August 12, 2003, Fort Worth, Texas.