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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Wednesday urged West Virginians not to fear the Obama administration's energy policies and to embrace carbon capture and storage technology as the way to continue burning coal while fighting global warming.
"It will save coal," Chu told reporters after speaking at a University of Charleston forum on carbon capture and storage, or CCS.
Chu took the stage with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to promote CCS -- and defend President Obama's coal policies -- to an audience of business leaders and industry officials.
In prepared remarks and a PowerPoint presentation, Chu said his agency's experts are convinced CCS can be part of the solution to climate change, despite concerns about its costs, safety and the feasibility of ramping up from pilot projects to widespread deployment.
"I think we can do this, but it will take time," Chu said.
Speaking alongside Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Rockefeller made perhaps his strongest statements to date in support of the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions are changing the global climate in dangerous ways.
Rockfeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, also blasted industry leaders and members of West Virginia media who promote the notion that global warming isn't real.
"I'm concerned that powerful voices in West Virginia continue to argue that climate change is a myth," Rockefeller said. "I'm not on the same bandwagon that some of you are."
The senator said that climate change skeptics are harming West Virginia by putting off efforts to perfect and deploy CCS, giving natural gas more time to cut into coal's market and hurt mining's long-term viability.
"Burying one's head in the sand is not a solution, and can only backfire," Rockefeller said.
But, Rockefeller also repeated his opposition to any of the broad climate and energy bills pending on Congress that would put a cap on carbon dioxide emissions. He said he prefers his narrower bill to pump more money into CCS research and deployment first.