West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller used confirmation hearings for the new U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to press for more investment in clean coal.
The economic stimulus package now under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $54 billion for renewable energy – including $2.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration technology (“clean coal”) projects.
"The United States has more than a 250-year supply of coal, and a lot of it is mined by hard-working people in West Virginia," said Rockefeller. "As a coal state senator, I believe that there can be no serious discussions about our energy future or climate change unless we're willing to make immediate, significant and sustained investments in carbon capture and sequestration.”
Environmentalists consider coal – which emits more carbon per unit of energy than oil or natural gas – a leading contributor to global warming.
President Barak Obama's nominee for Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, once referred to coal in a speech as “my worst nightmare.” This came back to haunt him during his nomination hearing with the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, when Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, another coal state, asked him how he really felt about coal.
Rather than reiterate his opposition, Dr. Chu said that coal, if used the way it has been, particularly by China, India, and Russia, it “is a pretty bad dream.” But it's also, he said, a “very abundant resource” and it is “imperative” the U.S. learns to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“If confirmed, I will work very hard to extensively develop” clean-coal technology, he said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says 49% of the country's electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants.