The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen the Rust Belt for some of its most important projects. According to an article in Pop City Media, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has set up shop — actually three shops — in western Pennsylvania, in the region surrounding Pittsburgh. By expanding an earlier research facility (ending up with a LEED Gold construction to boot) in a working coal mine while building an additional laboratory, NETL is now able to study power generation from fossil fuels.

The NETL, according to the story, "strives to enhance America's energy security, mitigate the environmental impact of energy production and use, and increase the competitiveness and reliability of U.S. energy systems." To do this, the organization operates five locations with a budget of $941 million and, according to Pop City, "expects to implement programs valued at $15.5 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. NETL brings 1,200 jobs to the region and the projects pairs the organization with energy companies and universities.

One such project examines the ways countries might use coal reserves cleanly and responsibly. NETL seeks to discover processes and technology that would benefit developing nations. Other projects have included everything from a partnership with Penn State to "develop and promote carbon products produced from coal," that will help reduce "the volume of carbon-based gases vented into the air through coal burning," according to Pop City. Another project explored how to upgrade low-quality natural gas to increase output.

Additional projects with groups from China and Mongolia will explore the long-term impact of coal liquefaction. As NETL gets settled in its new home in western Pennsylvania, the organization will focus on carbon storage and climate change. Pop City quotes NETL Deputy Director Tom Sarkus, who said, "America needs to have new technology ready to use when new regulations are implemented." Sarkus tells Pop City, "We have to be looking forward at least five years or more. We [NETL] are working on a portfolio of technologies that will help address these issues."

Government research lab brings jobs to Coal Country
More than 1,000 workers will study the environmental effects of energy production.