REP. JOHN BARROW (D-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Chairman Connaughton, for being here today. I want to talk carbon sequestration with you for a little bit, because it's important to a lot of the big emitters in the area that I have the privilege of representing.
But at the outset, I can't help but observe we want to digest what it is you have to say. We want to digest what it is you have to offer, but I'll note that the digestion process begins with chewing, and there's very little to chew on in your written statement. There's a lot to chew on in your extemporaneous opening statement, though.
So I'd like to offer and invite you in the future to help us get going on this process by giving us more to chew on in your prepared statement than you give us when we're opening up here today.
Now, on the subject of carbon sequestration, I know that there are a lot of technical issues, and I know that there are a lot of legal issues, folks that, in my part of the country, don't want the Floridian aquifer to be turned into one great big old carbonated water deposit. We don't want it to get the carbon out of our water, our groundwater, for example.
I understand that at Bali, there was some talk about trying to bring international science and resources to bear on actually studying the technical and the legal issues involved with the notion or the idea that we can take all this carbon out of the coal that we're going to use and stick that in the ground somewhere and store it safely.
I also understand that there were some objections from some of the developing countries to going down this path. And as a result, the idea was essentially, if I understand correctly, that this whole notion is going to be shelved until the next COP meeting sometime toward the end of this year, December of 2008.
My question to you is in two parts. First, is this administration committed to an international study that brings all the best science and scientists to bear on the issue of the technical and legal issues surrounding carbon sequestration in geological formations or not?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Yes.
REP. BARROW: What can we expect to get done about them in the last year of this administration's term in office?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Let me outline that for you, congressman. Let me briefly make an aside with respect to my testimony. No offense was intended. Please -- the Bali Action Plan is four full pages.
It is the statement of administration policy because we agreed to it, and in fact, reading it from end to end is probably the most important thing we could be doing right now in understanding. So please -- please know that was my intention.
REP. BARROW: Well, in your PowerPoint presentation, I just find two very brief -- which is incorporated by reference in your testimony, they're just two brief references to the subject of carbon sequestration.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Right.
REP. BARROW: There's no explanation of what we plan -- what we want and what we plan to do in the last year of this administration's term.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Well, let me map this out. First, it is probably the single most important thing we need to be doing, because as we go forward, the use of coal to make power will account for more than 50 percent of global emissions. And so if we don't find a pathway, with respect to this source --
REP. BARROW: We already know how important it is. What does this administration hope to do before it leaves office?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: So one, we have a full plan that will run over the course of the next 10 years or so of the research, the demonstration, and then the policies that will help the deployment to do large-scale demonstration projects for all the components that make carbon capture and storage possible.
REP. BARROW: A 10-year plan is going to last longer than the next two administrations.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Well, actually what we've done, congressman, is we have requested and gotten mostly from the Congress the budgets necessary to build the world's first zero emissions coal-fired plant, known as the FutureGen Project. The president's budgets have requested, and we've received from the Congress, tax credit authority to the tune of $1.8 billion this year and next year --
REP. BARROW: Back to the subject of my question, though, which is an international study of the technical and legal issues involved with sequestering carbon in geological formations as a solution, as a part of the overall picture?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Five years ago, congressman, the U.S. launched what was called the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, and that forum was set up to specifically engage those issues. And in fact, a lot of work has been done in that forum on that broader range of issues, policy type issues and design issues that you discussed.
What we've done since then is we're now turning that into our domestic policy that's backed up by both the effort of the EPA and the other agencies on the legal side, backed by the Treasury on the --
REP. BARROW: What is that policy, and what's it going to accomplish with the end of this year?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: By the end of this year, we will be underway with the project planning and design to actually break ground on the FutureGen Project.
REP. BARROW: Back to the study, though, the subject of my questioning is the need for an international study to ascertain what are the technical issues and the legal issues involved with the whole notion of sticking this stuff in the ground? And building a zero emitting plant is a good idea of going around the problem. My question is what are we going to do about the carbon we're taking out of coal to burn to make energy?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: On the specific issue of the study, MIT has produced a state-of-the-art study that the rest of the globe has been working with. The Department of Energy has produced its own roadmap and plan with respect to this. The Electric Power Research Institute in America has also conducted their own evaluation of this. What we are doing now is bringing that to the international community to see if we can then develop a joint roadmap that will build on the work that the U.S. has now pulled together.
So on that specific issue, it is our intention this year to get a agreement among the major economies, especially the coal using countries, to a joint effort, but not just to study, congressman, a joint effort and a joint commitment to put the resources necessary to begin to build the demonstrations that will make this possible and do it as fast as we can.
REP. BARROW: Well, are --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: And to do it as fast as we can --
REP. BARROW: -- are you --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: -- because beyond just studying --
REP. BARROW: Are you telling me we already understand the technical and legal liability issues well enough to be able to actually try and implement a program of carbon sequestration in geological formations? Do you think we can do that by the end of this year?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Well, I am telling you, congressman, that we have identified a lot of the issues, and we've done a lot of evaluation of those issues --
REP. BARROW: I've identified an issue, and we've identified the issue of the technical problems of sticking it underground and storing it and hopefully for a long time underground without it getting into other things we don't want it to get into. That's an issue, and where the legal liability issues are if it don't work out.
I mean, is Georgia Power and the Southern Company going to be liable to get the carbon out of water that they put into the ground, if they're trying to follow you all's roadmap and your plan for storing this stuff underground? What -- where are we on that track?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Specifically on that track, with respect to the FutureGen Project, we've already set up the legal regime, and that's going to be put in place to make that project happen as a research plant. And then --
REP. BARROW: What legal regime is -- (crosstalk) --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: -- the Environmental Protection Agency is working on the regulations, congressman, to do what you've just described more broadly.
REP. BARROW: What legal regime are you talking about, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I'm sorry.
REP. BARROW: What legal regime -- what are the steps that have been taken to create a legal regime for dealing with the issues of geologically stored carbon that leaks into other things?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: There is a team in the executive branch that is working through the regulatory design and needs to be sure to address the liability issues and the regulatory issues associated with those practices.
REP. BARROW: Seven minutes into my eight-minute period of questioning, my question now is what is that team going to produce for us by the end of this year?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: They're working on the very specific recommendations for policy that can be effectuated without need for congressional action and policy that may require congressional action to make these projects -- (crosstalk) --
REP. BARROW: By the end of this year, are they going to be able to tell us what they think Congress has to address and what Congress doesn't have to address?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: A lot of that has been identified already, congressman, and now we're working on specific recommendations.
REP. BARROW: Not in this PowerPoint presentation, which is what I'm asking for. Can you tell us that by the end of this month, for example, we will have a full and comprehensive report on the issues that have been identified by this study group on the subject of carbon sequestration and geological formations?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I would be more than happy to provide you with the materials that have been prepared by DOE to date, by EPA to date, by MIT to date, and by the Electric Power Research Institute. I think you'll find -- (crosstalk) --
REP. BARROW: How about the working study of this administration?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I'm sorry.
REP. BARROW: How about the study group of this administration?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: The DOE work and we have EPA work on this. I'm happy to share that with you.
REP. BARROW: I have your assurance on that, by the end of this month?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Absolutely, in fact, I --
REP. BARROW: Thank you. I'm through.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I welcome your engagement on it, congressman.
REP. BARROW: Thank you, sir.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT