Governor Manchin Goes to Washington, Obama’s Affair with ‘Clean Coal’ Continues

Written by Nell Greenberg

Topics: Coal

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West Virginia Governor, Joe Manchin, was spotted in DC today. He was attending a meeting at the White House alongside about a dozen governors from key energy producing states.

Manchin has been requesting a meeting for some weeks now, and while he didn’t get the one-on-one he was asking for he was certainly in a room of his close allies.

What was the reason for the meeting? Well, according to Manchin’s communication director, Matt Turner: “Gov. Manchin plans to share our concerns about West Virginia’s role in the nation’s energy future, and about how we are working to find the balance between the environment, the economy and energy security.”

While Manchin likely wanted to complain to Obama about the “war on Appalachia” that he feels the EPA is waging, Obama had a larger agenda- the future of America’s energy mix. Obama is not as unfriendly to Ol’ King Coal as Manchin makes it seem. In an unscripted dialogue with Republicans last Friday, Obama told Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia that, “Nobody’s been a bigger promoter of clean coal technology than I am. In testament to that, I ended up being in a whole bunch of advertisements that you guys saw all the time about investing in ways for us to burn coal more cleanly.” Here’s a copy of one of those ads to jog your memory.

Shortly after his meeting with Governor Manchin, President Obama issued a statement outlining the steps his Administration will take to address the future of America’s energy mix. Not surprisingly, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology stars a leading role in that future:

“For decades, the coal industry has supported quality high-paying jobs for American workers, and coal has provided an important domestic source of reliable, affordable energy. At the same time, coal-fired power plants are the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and coal accounts for 40 percent of global emissions. Charting a path toward clean coal is essential to achieving my Administration’s goals of providing clean energy, supporting American jobs, and reducing emissions of carbon pollution. Rapid commercial development and deployment of clean coal technologies, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS), will help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race.

… To further this work and develop a comprehensive and coordinated Federal strategy to speed the commercial development and deployment of clean coal technologies, I hereby establish an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (Task Force). You shall each designate a senior official from your respective agency to serve on the Task Force, which shall be Co Chaired by the designees from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Task Force shall develop within 180 days of the date of this memorandum a proposed plan to overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years, with a goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016. The plan should explore incentives for commercial CCS adoption and address any financial, economic, technological, legal, institutional, social, or other barriers to deployment. The Task Force should consider how best to coordinate existing administrative authorities and programs, including those that build international collaboration on CCS, as well as identify areas where additional administrative authority may be necessary. The Co Chairs shall report progress periodically to the President through the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.”

The National Mining Association was pleased with Obama’s remarks, here’s a snippet from their press statement: “News that the president will create a high-level task force on CCS technology is very welcome. It’s an acknowledgment by the administration not only of the importance of this technology for controlling global greenhouse gas emissions, but also of the vital role played by coal in supplying affordable electricity to America and a growing world economy.”

I think it goes without saying that “Clean Coal” technology is the biggest non-starter in the energy debate. It’s about as real as fat free donuts. It’s expensive, it’s implausible and it doesn’t come close to dealing with all the problems associated with coal. The National Mining Association is right about one thing though, the “vital” role of coal in America seems to be secure…King Coal’s deep pockets are taking care of that.

For a full transcript of the governors meeting, check out Ken Wards blog on Coal Tattoo.

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