July 31, 2008

Jay Rockefeller, Shelley Moore Capito Vouch for Coal’s Power to Congress: Delegation Leading Capitol Hill Fight for State’s Resources

By Jake Stump, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Jul. 31--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Clean coal and carbon capture are two key elements to cracking the ongoing energy crisis, say members of West Virginia's congressional delegation.

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito sponsored separate pieces of legislation this week promoting West Virginia coal and conversion research.

Rockefeller introduced the Future Fuels Act, a sweeping measure that would establish a quasi-governmental research corporation to study carbon capture and sequestration.

Carbon capture is an approach intended to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions. It involves capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and storing it safely underground.

On Wednesday, Capito was part of a bipartisan group to sponsor legislation that would set aside $130 billion for a carbon capture/sequestration and nuclear waste reserve. That bill also calls for reallocating $385 million for research and development in carbon capture and storage technology.

These measures arrive on the heels of the announcement that two companies will build an $800 million coal-to-gasoline plant at Benwood, Marshall County. The plant -- a venture between Consol Energy and Synthesis Energy Systems -- will be the first of its kind in the state and the first modern coal-to-liquids plant in the nation. Its design includes a plan for carbon sequestration, the process of trapping carbon dioxide and pumping it underground.

"Carbon capture and sequestration is one of the greatest environmental challenges of this century," Rockefeller said. "We absolutely have to put the best minds we have on the task of coming up with ways to figuring out a solution to this problem. Government should be providing the funding for the work, but it should not be dictating the solution."

Rockefeller's bill would create the Future Fuels Corporation, a privately run, government-financed research entity devoted to the production and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The senator said he hopes it provides the resources to develop commercial-scale carbon sequestration demonstration projects, with the goal of storing 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The measure would also create a new tax incentive for coal mine operators that capture, rather than vent, coal mine methane. According to Rockefeller's office, coal mine methane is a more potent greenhouse gas by volume than carbon dioxide and is a hazard for coal miners.

While carbon sequestration is considered a key way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not all energy experts believe the concept is environmentally friendly. Greenpeace International and the Union of Concerned Scientists are among the groups that contend carbon capture worsens the global warming problem.

Politicians and power companies, however, remain firm in their belief that carbon capture will help the environment and lead to more clean coal production.

Rockefeller's Future Fuels Act would also expand incentives for the development of clean coal technologies.

"We need a sustainable source of fuel, and coal -- especially clean, West Virginia coal -- has to be part of the answer," Rockefeller said. "That's why I authored this bill. Not just to harness the promise of coal in an environmentally responsible way, but to put us on a path to lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create good paying jobs in our state."

Capito's bill, the National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act, would lift most restrictions on offshore drilling and generate up to $2.6 trillion in royalties. Those monies would be set aside for alternative energy development.

"This bill reflects the fact that coal is one of our most abundant resources and must be part of a broad set of solutions," Capito said. "Including coal in this package was one of my priorities, and I'm particularly pleased that this bill makes it clear that coal can play a central role in solving our energy challenges."

The bill is sponsored by 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans in the U.S. House.

"This is a prime example of Democrats and Republicans working together to find consensus and enact real solutions," Capito said. "With this bill we have an opportunity to use expanded oil exploration to invest in clean coal technology, conservation and other renewable resources. West Virginians are seeking solutions and this legislation is a pragmatic response to an issue that impacts all of us."

Contact writer Jake Stump at [email protected]">[email protected] or (304) 348-4842.


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