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Rockefeller and Voinovich's CCS proposal

By Juliet Eilperin

Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-WVa.) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) will unveil draft legislation Monday to promote carbon capture and sequestration, the technology coal-backers see as essential to saving the industry if the government places a price on carbon.

The discussion draft would provide a generous federal subsidy for research and development of the technology, known as CCS: $850 million over 15 years for a collaboration between the public and private sector under the auspices of the Energy Department. It also provides incentives and tax credits for companies that can capture carbon dioxide early on, and would establish a long-term liability framework for companies who build and operate CCS plants.

The measure could provide one avenue for negotiating a climate bill as Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) look to round up votes for a possible compromise. Voinovich is one of only a handful of Republicans who might be willing to back climate and energy legislation, while Rockefeller is a prominent coal-state Democrat and a swing vote.

"Carbon capture and sequestration technology has the potential to grow our economy and move our energy policy in a positive direction," Rockefeller said in a statement. "Senator Voinovich and I share a vision of how we can harness America's technological innovation through policies that will protect jobs and our environment into the future. We know that coal has given the American people the highest standard of living in the world, and will continue to be a cornerstone of our energy policy."

Both the House-passed bill and the initial bill authored by Kerry and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had less comprehensive provisions to promote the development of carbon capture and storage. Also, in each case the bills provide money to the coal industry out of the revenue the federal government would collect by auctioning off pollution allowances; in the case of Rockefeller and Voinovich's proposal, the tax credits would be available regardless of whether the government forces emitters to pay for releasing carbon dioxide.

But Voinovich has repeatedly indicated he is unwilling to impose a price on carbon, which both the White House and Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have identified as essential to any climate bill. As a result, it is unclear whether new support for the coal industry would be enough to win over Voinovich's support for a climate bill.

"We can't move to the next step of our energy future, without addressing the technologies we need today," Voinovich said. "I believe we can pass a responsible bipartisan solution to protect jobs and our economy, rather than a country-wide cap and trade scheme."

But Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the senators' unwillingness to make utilities pay for carbon dioxide emissions would slow technological advances even if they did provide other federal assistance. The draft, he said, "would delay deployment of carbon capture and storage technology until as late as 2030, even though the U.S. must make real pollution reductions by 2020."

"A price on carbon pollution would speed private investment in CCS technologies, while a demonstration and early adoption incentives program would not," Weiss said. "In short, Senator Rockefeller and Voinovich's proposal is too little, too late, and lacks a price on carbon pollution -- the essential ingredient for CCS deployment."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  March 22, 2010; 7:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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We should develop coal gasification plants, that will change coal to gas. Gas is a cleaner fuel and anytime we move to a cleaner fuel it can only help the emmission problems with coal. Nuclear has a problem with waste disposal of highly active material that may never neutralize.

Posted by: myopinion15 | March 28, 2010 2:31 PM
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It is curious that people who claim to be environmentalists and who rely so much on 'peer reviewed' papers by esteemed scientists are willing to casually recommend pumping CO2 into the earth below power plants at high pressure in very large quantities. Can't remember any 'peer reviewed' articles that studied the geological structure below the many power plant sites, not too much about effects on water supplies, and not too much on whether the gas would really stay put or not.

There is lots of money to be made while the AGW GHG church still stands, and no one knows how long the cash window will stay open. Once or two years where the north polar ice returns to above 'normal' might shut down cash flow altogether. One or two peer reviewed papers reconstructing the temperature history for the last two or three thousand years would also shut it down. Sequoia and clam shell research has to feel like loaded guns pointed at their heads.

CCS research for 15 years that is funded up front would get some of these PHDs to retirement, and after that who cares? Just like the senior company and labor union management at GM these last several years; once I get mine I don't care about the rest of you.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | March 23, 2010 12:22 AM
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The cost of CCS will add 40% or more to the cost of electricity. In addition, there will be significant environmental problems caused by pumping huge quantities of gases into underground cavities, similar to those of drilling for natural gas.

All of this cost will buy us nothing other than to placate the irrational fears of Chicken Little and Henny Penny. The sky is not falling; those who tell you that it is are hysterical and wrong.

Posted by: snorbertzangox | March 22, 2010 10:52 AM
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