In the near future, we can use natural gas, because it is very abundant here in the US. What we should be doing however, is utilizing wind and solar energy on a large scale to replace coal. We should also be working on geothermal energy, which is completely clean and again, very abundant.
To use wind and solar energy to “replace” coal will require huge changes in infrastructure and it is not clear that the energy currently supplied by coal (about 45% of US electricity) can actually be supplied in such amounts on an economic basis by alternatives (wind and solar and geothermal together supply about 1% of electric generation now, so it will be a huge ramp-up to get close to “replacing” coal and this is not likely for decades, at best.). Wind turbines require things like neodymium and lanthanum, currently produced almost entirely in China and the US is currently 100% import dependent on them (though US mines are being reopened and other deposits evaluated because of this need). It is not as simple as saying anything can “replace” something else – they all come with significant trade-offs.
Even with relatively abundant natural gas, it is unreasonable to say that it can in the “near future” supplant coal as an electricity generator. It is by no means clear that the projected production volumes for recent shale gas discoveries can be sustained for years. And even with all that, the US still in 2010 imports about 17% of the natural gas we consume, mostly from Canada, but also from Mexico, Egypt, Nigeria, and Yemen.
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