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Hearing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Department of Energy Oversight: Status of Clean Coal Programs


Location: Washington, DC

The subject of today's hearing is one that is vital for the future of coal and the climate: the development of carbon capture and storage - or CCS - technologies. Investments that the Department of Energy is making in CCS will help industry produce cleaner power, help provide a market for coal as the world moves to cut carbon pollution, and help avoid a catastrophic degree of climate change.

There is a long history of government investment driving private sector technological advances. Government investment led to the creation of the internet, GPS-positioning, and even Apple's voice assistant, Siri. Google's search algorithm was financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

In the case of CCS, DOE is partnering with the coal industry and utilities to build next generation clean coal power plants, helping to create new jobs and control carbon emissions.

Investing in CCS makes sense because our nation -- and the world -- must reduce our carbon emissions. My Republican colleagues accuse the President of waging a "War on Coal." In fact, the President is trying to create a future for coal. His Administration has invested billions of dollars -- more than any other Administration -- to develop clean coal technologies.

It is the policies pursued by Republicans on this Committee -- not the President's policies -- that are the real threat to coal.

In fact, I am confident that the coal industry and Republican members from coal states will soon regret the day that they opposed the Waxman-Markey climate bill and the $60 billion we proposed to invest in carbon capture and sequestration.

This Committee is powerful. We have the authority to shape our nation's environmental and energy laws. But there is one set of laws we can't change: the laws of nature. The greenhouse effect tells us that we will irrevocably change our atmosphere and cause catastrophic climate change if we continue to burn coal without developing a technology to capture its carbon emissions. That's not a bright future for coal -- or for any of us.

The DOE investments in CCS are under the spotlight now because of EPA's proposed new power plant rule. But these investments are crucially important and are starting to pay off. Later this year, Southern Company's Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi will begin operations and capture 67% of its CO2 emissions. DOE's $270 million investment helped to make this plant a reality and attracted billions of dollars in private financing.

Opponents of CCS say the technology used at Kemper facility is too expensive. But the costs of virtually all new technologies decrease over time with experience, continued innovation, and economies of scale.

We've seen that repeatedly under the Clean Air Act -- with scrubbers, NOx controls, and mercury controls. The expert witnesses today will tell us that they expect to see similar cost reductions with CCS technology.

In contrast, the costs of climate disruption are only going to get worse -- much worse -- if we don't act now to cut carbon pollution.

Our choice is a simple one. We can do nothing while coal plants continue to spew dangerous emissions into the air, endangering the welfare of our children and our planet. Or we develop the new clean energy technologies of the future.

The President and DOE Secretary Moniz have made the right choice: invest in CCS. Our choice should be to support them in this effort.

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