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Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I wish to speak to amendment No. 1614, sponsored by Senators Byrd, Rockefeller, Landrieu, Salazar, Webb, and myself.

The Energy bill we have been debating is going to bring us greater energy independence and clean up our energy supply to help combat climate change.

This bill is clean and green and it will make great strides in developing clean energy sources and increasing efficiency. But we must admit we have done little in the bill to address America's largest energy resource and also one of our largest polluters--coal.

Coal supplies over half of our electricity generation, it drives our economy and manufacturing and can be turned into a liquid transportation fuel to replace foreign oil. Coal is relatively cheap and easily accessible. We now have enough coal for 250 years if we keep using it at the same rate we are using it now.

Not only are we going to keep using coal, but most energy experts predict we are going to use more of it into the future. We have to start doing better when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions from coal.

I do not believe the Government has been providing the right incentives to move the coal industry in the right direction. The amendment that I--and others I spoke of earlier--am offering today will provide Government grants for engineering and design of coal-to-liquid and coal gasification facilities.

It will authorize direct loans for facilities if they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the petroleum equivalent, which, by the way, is the same requirement we use for biofuels. To qualify, a facility must show that it can and will both capture and store 75 percent of its carbon dioxide. We need these parameters because we need to start doing things better than we have done in the past if Government is going to be supporting these projects.

There has been a lot of discussion in the last couple of days about coal-to-liquid fuels. I would rather get our energy from States such as Montana, Ohio, West Virginia, or Colorado than from the oil cartels in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the production of coal to liquids without capturing carbon dioxide emits over twice the amount of carbon dioxide than does petroleum, and climate change is as big a threat as the unstable countries where we buy our oil. When carbon is captured and safely stored, coal-to-liquid facilities and coal gasification plants can achieve carbon dioxide levels that are closer or better than a petroleum equivalent. If you combine the coal with biomass at the same facilities, you can reach emission levels that are far less than petroleum.

The National Mining Association recently ran an editorial in the New York Times identifying the benefits of clean coal technologies and its implications for national security. The editorial is on this chart. In a nutshell, what Kraig Naasz, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, said was that a coal-to-liquid facility with carbon capture and sequestration combined with the use of biomass could achieve life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions 46 percent below a petroleum equivalent. That is good news indeed.

I believe our fuel sources are a national security concern, and we need to explore all safe and clean energy options to help break our addiction to foreign oil. Coat-to-liquid fuel is a part of that equation, and this amendment makes coal cleaner than petroleum when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is an issue I take very seriously. I want to leave this world for my children and grandchildren in as good of shape or better than my parents left it for me.

Climate change is real. Our oceans are rising, our glaciers are melting, and wildly shifting weather patterns are causing more frequent hurricanes, dramatic snowstorms, and prolonged drought. I am a dryland farmer, and I have spent my entire life on the same piece of ground in Big Sandy, MT. As a farmer, you notice every little detail about the weather--moisture, temperature, when the plants bud, when they are ready for harvest. In recent years, something hasn't been right. The climate we have today is not the one that was there when I was a kid. We plant earlier than we used to, we harvest earlier, rain comes at different times, and the summers have become so hot and dry in Montana that the sky is filled with smoke from forest fires hundreds of miles away.

Steps can be taken to reverse the effects of climate change and improve the energy options we have available. Coal is cheap, we have a lot of it, and I think we should use it. But we must learn lessons from how we have developed coal in the past. The Department of Energy says that there are 151 new or proposed coal powerplants on the way by 2030, and some of those are coal gasification facilities. I am committed to finding ways to make the next generation of coal plants better than the last.

This bill encourages research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies. Carbon capture and storage may be our best option to reduce carbon emissions from coal. We even include a cost-share provision for carbon capture equipment that I sponsored with Senator Bingaman in the Energy Committee.

But we have done little to give industry the incentives to employ these technologies on a large scale. Wall Street really has no interest in loaning money for clean coal facilities because there is no economic incentive to reduce emissions. This amendment provides direct loans for 100 percent of the equipment used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and up to 50 percent of the total project cost.

Coal gasification technology is our best opportunity to prove the capture of CO2 on a massive scale and safely store it through an industrial process that gives us the products we need, such as fertilizers, plastics, electricity, and fuel. Carbon dioxide can be captured at a gasification facility, then compressed, piped away, and stored in geological formations, including oil and gas fields where they can increase the production of petroleum or CO2 can be used in products that facilities produce, such as fertilizers, chemicals, plastics, and fuel.

The Syntroleum plant in North Dakota has been capturing their CO2 for 20 years and piping it 205 miles into Canada for enhanced oil recovery. They capture 5,000 tons of CO2 a day and sell the carbon to produce more oil. In Colorado, one company actually mines CO2 from carbon deposits in the ground and pipes it to Texas for enhanced oil recovery, and, I should add, this is done for profit.

The amendment being offered today is a technology driver to move this industry into the next phase and help get the first few new generation facilities on the ground.

Government should only provide backing to the best technologies to help spur a clean industry that can demonstrate an overall societal benefit.

To be clear, industry will move forward with coal gasification projects and coal-to-liquid projects regardless of congressional actions, and plants have already been announced. But this is our opportunity to encourage these facilities to be clean and push the development of carbon capture and storage on a commercial and industrial scale.

Coal-to-liquid projects have been proposed for Illinois, Ohio, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and the list goes on. These companies have proposed these projects without Government financing, but the emissions from these facilities are yet to be determined.

The timing of this Energy bill and this amendment is critical because designs could be modified to fit the parameters of this amendment, and we can be assured that these projects move forward with the cleanest technology available. Industry will benefit if we set clear guidelines as to the standards we expect to be met for Government backing.

Luckily, we have the science to back up our goals. A recent study from the Idaho National Labs proves that coal to liquids, when produced with carbon capture and biomass, can achieve life-cycle greenhouse gas reductions of over 40 percent from a petroleum equivalent. We see the bar graph with petroleum diesel being the baseline. If we look across at the fourth column, if we combine coal with 30 percent biomass to perform coal to liquids, we can see a tremendous reduction in CO2.

Coal gasification with carbon capture and biomass is a vast improvement over our current use of coal. Congress is at a crucial point where we can help drive these facilities toward the best technology available. This amendment is a challenge to industry, but it is a challenge that is technologically available and can and should be met.

Rentech, one of the strongest advocates of coal-to-liquid technology, proved my point in front of the Senate Finance Committee last April when they showed the members of the committee the potential of the technology on which they are working. What they said was that they agree that as carbon capture reaches the levels we spell out in this bill, combined with biomass, coal to liquids is far better than what we are doing currently.

I believe this amendment will drive a new, clean, and green coal-to-liquids industry toward startup and help offset our foreign dependence on imported oil. Besides fuel, it will make cheaper fertilizers, chemicals, and plastics.

Adopting this amendment will be a technology driver that is good for industry and is good for this country. I urge this body to support clean and green coal development.

Mr. President, I yield the floor to Senator Byrd.

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