Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Role of Coal

Despite Henry Waxman's previous position seeking to ban new coal-fired power plants -- unless they employ CSS technology -- Waxman says that everything about coal is on the table.  E & E reported that  "the California Democrat has been sounding more like a centrist than a fossil-fuel fighter as he prepares to gavel the energy committee's first hearing on the topic today." "Everything is on the table about coal," Waxman said on Capitol Hill yesterday. That statement followed comments last week in which he said he expected coal to "play an important role in our overall sources of energy" in the future. Asked yesterday whether those comments signaled a move to the center, he said he wants to start the chairmanship with a clean slate and "doesn't have a position yet to change."

Coal provides 50 percent of U.S. electricity and a full third of US carbon dioxide emissions. The coal industry suggests that commercialization of CSS technology is more than a decade away -- although the technology is clearly at the pilot plant stage.  Obama is considering tax incentives in the economic stimulus package to develop CCS and restarting FutureGen, a zero-emissions coal plant that was being designed when the Bush administration pulled the financial plug on the project.

Henry Waxman
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

Waxman's first hearing on climate change is industry oriented, which some take as a sign that Waxman will to take a middle-of-the-road approach on global warming, reducing requirements for developing and deploying CCS technology.  Testimony today will come from representatives from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporations and environmental organizations calling for greenhouse gas reductions that includes members such as utility giant Duke Energy and mining company Rio Tinto.  USCAP's Blueprint for Legislative Action calls for a cap-and-trade plan that will raise the cost of new coal-fired power plants.

See Waxman's proposed climate bill

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