CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the coal industry continues to blast U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposals to curb greenhouse gas pollution, the Obama administration is moving forward with another effort to advance technology that would help power plants capture carbon dioxide emissions.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz this week announced 18 new projects across the country to research second-generation technologies to improve the efficiency and drive down the costs for carbon capture and storage, or CCS, for new and existing coal-fired power plants.
In a statement, Moniz noted that renewable electricity generation has more than doubled in the past four years but insisted that "any serious effort" to combat climate change "also must include developing, demonstrating and deploying" technology to curb emissions from fossil fuels.
"As part of the president's all-of-the-above approach to develop clean and affordable sources of American energy, the projects announced today will focus on the next generation of carbon-capture technologies -- helping to drive down the cost, increase efficiency and ensure America's continued international leadership in combating climate change," Moniz said.
None of the new projects -- funded with $84 million in Department of Energy money -- are located in West Virginia.
The Obama administration is moving to implement the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions limits for new and existing power plants as part of a broader strategy to try to limit the negative impacts of global warming.
Experts have concluded that the key to coal's survival in a carbon-constrained world is to perfect technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions and pump those emissions underground.
Critics worry about the expense, safety and a host of technical hurdles, including the huge infrastructure needed to install the equipment on power plants across the world. Environmental and citizen groups also are hesitant to support CCS, worrying that the talk of "clean coal" allows the government and industry to ignore what they argue are other much-needed improvements in the regulation of how coal is mined and burned, and how coal wastes are handled.
The $84 million in funding announced this week is far from the billions of dollars that experts believe is needed for CCS research. However, Obama's plan does include $8 billion in new DOE loan guarantees for fossil-fuel projects, including those aimed specifically at testing, perfecting and deploying CCS technology to control greenhouse emissions.
Some utility officials complain that EPA-proposed emissions limits for new power plants move too quickly, and the mining industry has continued to complain that the Obama administration is engaging in a "war on coal."