Bush Administration Pushes Pessimism on Clean Coal

Bill Scher

There’s wide public support for Congress to tackle global warming, but Congress has work to do to sift through the details and forge consensus around a specific plan.

At a House hearing yesterday, Bush Administration energy official Thomas Shope sought to push a pessimistic view on when we’ll be able to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants, and store it underground, out of the atmosphere.

CQ.com reports:

Thomas D. Shope … said that technology is unlikely to be available at an affordable cost before 2025, under funding levels for research and development recommended by the administration … By 2025, a power plant using carbon sequestration technology would be about 10 percent more expensive than a standard pulverized-coal plant [and] by 2045, the costs would be roughly equivalent.

If that timetable became accepted, that would stymie attempts to make significant progress in fighting global warming by 2020, before the problem gets out of hand.

Or as a National Resources Defense Council official said at the hearing, “we’d all be fried” by 2045.

The political purpose of Shope’s testimony may be to drive a wedge between factions within the Democratic caucus.

Fortunately, members of both key factions rejected Shope’s pessimism.

Environment & Energy Daily quoted Rep. Ed Markey — who believes we need a cap on emissions to accelerate implementation of affordable clean coal technology — as he ripped into Shope:

“The basic technology already exists, and that’s what your testimony indicates,” Markey said. “I just think it’s one more example of the Bush administration avoiding the central question that America wants to know the answer to, which is whether or not they’re going to use technology and a cap-and-trade system” to address global warming.

And Rep. Rick Boucher — who doesn’t want a cap fully implemented until clean coal technology is cost-effective, and is bristling at Speaker Pelosi’s push for quick legislation — could have clung to Shope to make his case. But instead he said:

That’s a much longer timeframe than others have suggested.

Rep. Jay Inslee, who last week addressed the Apollo Summit, made the critical point to Shope:

No one is going to spend the money to do it [without a cap.] Why would anyone spend their money if the Bush administration is allowing pollution for free?

Learn more about clean coal from the National Resources Defense Council.

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