That opposition to a cap-and-trade bill puts Rockefeller at odds with Chu and the Obama administration, not to mention American Electric Power, which supported a House-passed bill that West Virginia's three congressional representatives voted against.
In a report issued last month, an Obama administration task force called the lack of comprehensive climate change legislation "the key barrier to CCS deployment.
"Without a carbon price and appropriate financial incentives for new technologies, there is no stable framework for investment in low-carbon technologies such as CCS," said the report, issued by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Chu repeated those concerns during Wednesday's event, both in his prepared remarks and in a short question-and-answer sessions with reporters that followed.
"You need a long-term signal to investors," he said.
Once government makes it clear that greenhouse emissions are going to be capped, Chu said, "engineers work on it instead of lobbyists [and] miracles happen."
Coal plants account for a third of the nation's greenhouse emissions. While coal supporters and many scientists believe carbon capture technology can be part of the solution, there are major questions about the cost, scale and feasibility of installing the equipment on power plants around the world. Scientists are still looking for the best, safest and cheapest way to condense carbon dioxide, pump it underground and storage it indefinitely.
And while scientists believe there is an urgent need to slash greenhouse emissions to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international panel of experts, concluded in 2007 that carbon capture and storage might not make "important contributions" to climate change mitigation until after 2030.
Chu noted that the Obama administration's Recovery Act pumped $4.3 billion into CCS, including $334 million to expand a key test project at AEP's Mountaineer Plant in Mason County. Currently, the Obama plan calls for bringing five to 10 commercial CCS demonstration projects online by 2016.
Chu recalled that industry officials warned the 1990 Clean Air Act provisions to stop acid rain would cost $8.5 billion a year, but ended up costing only $2.3 billion. He predicted the same thing would happen with CCS.
"Technology improves continuously," Chu said. "Engineers and scientists do remarkable things and costs are driven down."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.