About 40% of all coal mined in the United States is extracted from lands owned by the federal government, under leases managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Burning that coal accounts for 13% of U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (1). With the largest and lowest-cost reserves in the United States, federal coal alone—estimated at nearly 10% of the world’s known reserves—has potential to contribute substantially to atmospheric CO2 concentrations (2). In response to calls for reform, DOI has issued a moratorium on new leases while it develops a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to guide the first major reform of the program since 1982. We review existing knowledge of key issues relevant to reform, highlighting the social costs of coal extraction, the extent of substitution away from federal coal induced by raising additional leasing revenue, the lack of competition in the leasing auctions, and the incentives inherent in the current leasing program structure. We then turn to critical areas of research that can be done in the near term and would contribute to more informed debate and policy development.

Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
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Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Climate Change
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Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Law & Policy
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Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.
Climate Science
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Climate Science
EPIC’s interdisciplinary team of researchers is contributing to a cross-cutting body of knowledge on the scientific causes of climate change and its social consequences.
Definition
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.