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Public Statements

Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives For The Nation Act Of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I would like to speak to the two amendments proposed yesterday, which invest in coal particularly as a transportation fuel and which threaten to increase the dangers of climate change rather than lessening them. These two amendments offer the Senate false choice: either to reduce our dependence on foreign oil or to worsen the rise of global climate change. But the truth is, we don't have to choose between our security at home and the security of our planet.

Energy policy today is more critical than ever because it touches on not one but two of our most vital national interests: namely, energy security and climate change. We cannot afford to sacrifice our fight against climate change at the altar of energy independence. Promoting the conversion of domestic coal to liquefied fuel will dramatically increase CO2 emissions and that is no better than robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The truth is, we can break the stranglehold of foreign oil, we can create new jobs in energy, and we can strengthen our hand addressing global climate change and we shouldn't settle for approaches that don't help us achieve all three of these national imperatives.

Here's what scientists are telling us: On nearly a weekly basis, we see mounting scientific evidence highlighting the need to act. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change written by more than 600 scientists, reviewed by another 600 experts, and edited by officials from 154 governments has confirmed the threat and the need for urgent action.

Because it will set back the fight against climate change, coal to liquids offers us--at best--a Pyrrhic victory in our struggle to create a sensible, sustainable energy policy. Study after study has shown that liquid fuels derived from coal produce significantly higher CO2 emissions than traditional fuels. Transforming coal into liquid fuel involves heating it to 1,000 degrees and mixing it with water to create a gas, which is then converted into fuel usable in cars and jets. If that sounds like an energy-intensive process, it is. And energy-intensive processes generate a lot of CO2 emissions. Every gallon of liquid fuels derived from coal produces up to 2.5 times more well-to-wheels global warming emissions than gasoline or diesel fuel from crude oil. That means that even with 85 percent capture of CO2 during production, well-to-wheels Coal to Liquid emissions are 19-25 percent higher than conventional gasoline or diesel.

I understand that all coal-to-liquids amendments are not created equal my Democratic coal State colleagues have attempted to build environmental safeguards into their amendments. And I thank them for that. The Bunning amendment, by contrast, is full of loopholes and hollow environmental mandates that crumble under scrutiny, leaving only big subsidies for big coal. But ultimately neither should pass. This is a question of priorities, and with limited Federal dollars available, we need to support those technologies that promise the greatest oil savings and the greatest emissions reductions.

We should be turning to increased fuel economy standards, increased energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential buildings, strong renewable electricity standards, and incentives for biofuels and advanced vehicles.

Let me repeat--this is a question of priorities.

I would like to briefly address several of the arguments that are being made by coal-to-liquids industry supporters. These arguments are intended to confuse what is a very complicated process. I will do my best to unmask their arguments and make the reality as clear as possible.

First, many proponents cite the emissions reductions associated with coprocessing coal and biomass at coal-to-liquids production facilities. However, these benefits simply come from using a promising new clean technology to mask the flaws of coal. These coprocessing facilities, when equipped with carbon capture, may indeed result in lower emissions than traditional fuels, but this has nothing to do with the coal and everything to do with the biomass. We should be having a serious conversation about biomass and how it can be best integrated into our energy supply, which is a matter of some large debate, rather than blindly buying into the coal industry's assumption that coprocessing biomass and coal is the most direct road to a clean energy future.

Second, proponents focus on tailpipe emissions and argue that diesel fuel produced from coal-to-liquids has fewer emissions than traditional gasoline.

Again, we need to make sure we are comparing apples to apples. The tremendous increase in well-to-wheels CO2 emissions comes during the production process, not at the point of tailpipe emissions. In fact, tailpipe emissions from diesel generated from crude oil and diesel generated from coal are roughly the same. Same story with gasoline generated from crude oil and gasoline generated from coal. Comparing diesel to gasoline is just a distraction diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines and therefore emit less CO2, regardless of whether you are talking about traditional fuels or coal-to-liquids

Third, proponents talk about the environmental benefits associated with coal-to-liquids. This is frankly laughable.

I have spoken about the doubling of emissions associated with the coal-to-liquids production process. But if we are talking about the environmental impacts of coal mining, we have to look even beyond the emissions and consider the severe impacts to water quality. In Appalachia alone, mountaintop removal has destroyed more than 2,500 mountain peaks and leveled more than 1 million acres. This waste is dumped into river valleys and contaminates over 1,200 rivers and streams throughout the region. That waste, combined with acidic mine runoff, destroys habitat for fish and wildlife everywhere that coal is mined today. Before we jump-start a new industry in this country and ramp up coal production, we need to have a serious conversation about these and other impacts.

There are too many unknowns associated with coal-to-liquids technology, but here is what we do know: well-to-wheel emissions are two and a half
times those of traditional fuels, and even when carbon capture is applied which has not yet been demonstrated on a commercial scale emissions are 19-25 percent greater than traditional fuels.

The cost of these plants is exorbitant MIT estimates that the cost of constructing a coal-to-liquids plant is four times that of a traditional refinery. The same study estimated that it would cost $70 billion to build enough plants to replace 10 percent of American gasoline consumption.

Finally, I would like to close by saying a few words on another issue that will be coming to a vote later this afternoon. Senators CARDIN and MIKULSKI have introduced an amendment addressing the siting of liquefied natural gas terminals. This is an important amendment, and I am proud to support and cosponsor it. This is a contentious issue in Fall River, MA, where powerful interests are fighting to construct a LNG terminal far too close to a major population center. This proposal is strongly opposed by Governor Patrick and numerous State and Federal representatives. I strongly support Senators CARDIN and MIKULSKI's amendment, which would require state approval of LNG siting decisions. While LNG is an important part of our clean energy mix, it is essential that these facilities be sited in safe and appropriate locations. This amendment guarantees the state its appropriate and necessary role in approving these decisions. I urge my colleagues to support it.


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