(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to examine FutureGen and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) advanced coal programs. Subcommittee Members heard testimony on near-term and long-term strategies to accelerate research, development and demonstration of advanced technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. At the hearing Members discussed a GAO report comparing the DOE’s past efforts to where they are now to determine the best path to take moving forward.
It is well understood that the burning of fossil fuels significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 50 percent of the electricity generated in the United States comes from coal and 41 percent of the electricity produced worldwide comes from coal. China is the world’s largest coal user, accounting for 63 percent of the country’s total primary energy supply.
“We burn a lot of coal in this country and around the world. The United States is one of the largest consumers of coal and this is one of the major reasons we are one of the largest emitters of gases that lead to lethal warming and acidification of our oceans. But we are not the only country with strong dependence on coal. China and India have both expanded their coal use, and in 2007 China surpassed us to become the largest contributor to global CO2 emissions,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA). “I do not say this to point fingers, but to point out that climate change truly is a global problem, and we must work with other developed nations and developing economies to find solutions to this staggering problem.”
“It is extremely unfortunate that the previous Administration used ‘bad math’ to restructure a major climate-change initiative. The end result has been lost time to develop carbon capture storage (CCS) technologies and increased skepticism from around the globe about our commitment to demonstrate CCS,” said Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).
The DOE manages several programs – such as the Clean Coal Power Initiative, FutureGen, Innovations from Existing Plants Programs, Advanced Turbines Program, Advanced Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Program, Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnership – designed to research and develop new technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our nation’s coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources while also maximizing performances and minimizing costs.
In 2003, the DOE’s FutureGen initiative was announced by the Bush Administration as the first zero-emissions, coal-fired electricity-generating plant that would also test advanced coal technologies. Under the FutureGen program, DOE would oversee a consortium of industrial interests and international partners that would manage the construction of a $1 billion next-generation integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant to produce electricity and hydrogen. In January of 2008, the DOE announced a major restructuring of the FutureGen program which eliminated the hydrogen production and the living laboratory of components of the original program and left our international partners unsure of their involvement with the initiative. Since the announcement of the restructuring of FutureGen, the DOE has received many proposals to review. Recently, Secretary Steven Chu testified that he would support the original FutureGen plant with “some modifications.”
“These reports make clear the decision by President Bush and Secretary Bodman was not supported by the facts,” said Senior Committee Member Jerry Costello. “The result is we lost at least a year and a half and perhaps more time to develop carbon capture and sequestration technologies. President Bush took what could have been a tremendous bipartisan achievement with real impact on global climate change and made it yet another poor decision.”
“I think the United States should take the lead in reducing energy consumption and particularly consumption of fossil fuels. We have a variety of tools at our disposal to accomplish that goal. We can develop and deploy advanced, green technologies, adopt better conservation practices and energy efficiency policies, and as individuals, behave more responsibly. Without bold policies and public and personal commitment, we run the risk of serious damage to our environment and our society. That outcome is simply unacceptable,” added Baird. “It is my sincere hope and expectation that we can devise a strategy forward that achieves remarkable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.”