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Clean Coal and Power Conference

November 22, 2005 - 2:54pm

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Remarks Prepared for Energy Secretary Bodman

It's a pleasure to be with you today, and to meet with such an impressive group of leaders from one of our nation's most important industries.

Let me begin by thanking everyone who helped organize this conference.  I particularly want to thank our Department's Office of Fossil Energy for their participation in putting this meeting together.

Events like this, which bring together industry leaders, officials from state and federal government, as well as academic researchers and technology developers, provide an invaluable forum for all of us to keep abreast of the latest technologies, share information, and plan the next steps in maintaining clean coal as a cornerstone of our nation's energy security.

I hardly need to remind this audience that coal has been a key factor in our national economic success.

Coal literally fueled the Industrial Revolution.  It has underpinned America's growth almost from our country's beginning.  And I think it is safe to say that we owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who have labored in the coal fields and down in the mines.

One question that confronts us, however, is what role should coal play in our future?  Another is what steps must we take to ensure stable, affordable supplies of energy in future decades, when demand is expected to soar?

As we ponder those questions, we face a set of challenges that policymakers and business leaders did not have to confront in previous eras - challenges related to pollution, to public health, and to the potential for climate change.  This means that in the development of our national energy policy, we must address the environmental challenges posed by the continued use of coal.

Now, there are those who seize on these issues, making sensational, even hysterical claims to argue that we must move quickly and completely away from coal as an energy source.  Meanwhile others advocate reducing the role of coal gradually over time.

Our Administration takes a different view, a longer view, a more informed view.  To our way of thinking, America's 250-year domestic supply of coal must be a key factor in our nation's future energy security.  Coal is our most abundant and economical source of fuel.  And just as it helped make America the world's foremost industrial power over the last two centuries, it will continue to be an important part of our national economy in the 21st century and beyond.

But the continued prominence of coal won't happen just because I say so.  It will happen because we are investing in the 21st century technologies that will allow us to address the challenges I mentioned a moment ago.  We are confident that by harnessing the brain power found in our national labs, in private industry, and in academia, we can devise ways that will allow us to burn coal without pollution.

Now, I recognize the great progress that has already been made on this front.  Coal-fired power plants being built today are over 90% cleaner in emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides than their counterparts in 1970, when the Clean Air Act was enacted.  Moreover, they must meet stringent limits for mercury emissions, a pollutant for which there was no national limitation for power plants until this past spring.  This is impressive progress.  But there is more work to do.

Shortly after I was sworn in as Secretary, President Bush and I visited the Battelle labs in Columbus, Ohio.  He talked about coal as "our most abundant, reliable, and affordable energy resource."  The President also said - quote - "Most people have said burning coal without pollution was as likely as the Red Sox winning the World Series."  The line got quite a laugh, even from this long-suffering Red Sox fan.  But it also contained a huge element of truth.        

Fortunately, the United States recently took an important and long overdue step toward improving making clean coal part of our long-term energy security.  In July, five years after President Bush first called upon Congress to address our nation's energy challenges through comprehensive legislation, the House and Senate passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  It took a lot of work, but in the end, broad bipartisan majorities endorsed a wide range of ambitious initiatives to address our growing energy needs.

I know that many of you were early and vigorous supporter of this energy legislation, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, your guidance, and your encouragement.

Now, this new legislation is not just about coal.  It is a broad and ambitious plan that addresses our energy challenges across several fronts.  The law will improve the supply of clean and efficient natural gas by clarifying federal authority to site new Liquefied Natural Gas terminals.  It promotes the use of renewable energy and encourages greater energy efficiency, so that we can get more out of our existing energy sources, and help lower utility bills for American consumers.  It continues funding the President's ambitious Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, to develop commercially viable cars that run on pollution-free hydrogen, reducing our dependence on imported sources of oil.  And it gives strong support to our advanced scientific work, which includes research into entirely new sources of energy--like nuclear fusion.

This focus on using the power of technology to develop clean, reliable energy is one of the hallmarks of this law, and of our Administration's approach to meeting the challenges that we face.

Some of you may know that my background is in chemical engineering.  I studied it, and then taught it, at MIT.  So one of the reasons I was so pleased that the President asked me to serve in the position is because I really believe that the answers to many of energy problems can be found in science and technology.

Now, that's obvious with something like hydrogen or fusion.  But the faith that our Administration and our Department has in American ingenuity and practical problem-solving also extends to something as old-fashioned as coal.   We have come a very long way since Edison built the first practical coal-fired electric generating station in 1882.

New technologies are making coal an even cleaner, more reliable, and more indispensable part of our diverse energy portfolio.

That is why we are so pleased that new Energy Policy Act strongly supports the President's Clean Coal Power Initiative, with authorization for nearly $2 billion through fiscal year 2014.  The bulk of this will go toward developing better gasification technologies, as well as work in co-production of other fuel sources, such as hydrogen.   The law also funds the Clean Air Coal Program, to provide financial assistance for cleaner technology in existing and new plants.  This includes advanced pollution control and efficiency increases in existing plants and gasification and other advanced technologies, including "ultra-supercritical" generation with pulverized coal in new plants.  And there are production and supply tax incentives, including a 20 percent tax credit for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, generation.  

All these measures are designed to lead new technology into the market, which underwrites and supports both the present market, as well as the future growth, of coal power. 

In addition to looking for ways to make our power plants cleaner and more efficient in the years to come, we are also investigating ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal combustion.  Our Administration's approach has been to pursue an ambitious program featuring cleaner, more efficient energy technologies.  All told, we are spending upwards of $5 billion per year on a comprehensive climate change strategy.

One aspect of this strategy is to move forward with energy technologies that reduce future greenhouse gas emissions without having to take steps that would harm our economy.  And it is increasingly clear that this approach makes sense. 

This summer, the Energy Information Administration reported that for the second consecutive year, the United States has seen a reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy.  This reduction demonstrates that we are on course to meet, and may exceed, the ambitious goal President Bush set forth in 2002 to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012. 

EIA's data shows that in 2004, greenhouse gas intensity was reduced by 2.6%.  This is on top of a reduction of 2.1% in 2003.  And, I would add, this was accomplished during a period of robust economic growth.  So we are making progress on ways to continue using fossil fuels like coal while slashing or even eliminating GHG emissions.

Working closely with industry leaders-including many of you here this morning-and with top research universities, we are investigating both how to capture CO2, and how to keep it out of the atmosphere.

Achieving large-scale carbon sequestration will be a considerable technological challenge.  And yet, I am pleased to say that we seem to be making good progress. You may have heard about the success of the "Weyburn Project" two weeks ago, in which our Department participated in successfully sequestering five million tons of carbon dioxide into the Weyburn Oilfield in Saskatchewan, Canada, while doubling the field's oil recovery rate. That this project involved an oil field rather than a coal plant is less pertinent, I think, than the fact that it demonstrates the technical feasibility of permanent geologic sequestration of carbon.

Let me also take this opportunity, then, to congratulate those of you who were involved in the creation of the FutureGen Alliance this summer.  As all of you know very well, FutureGen is a $1 billion public-private initiative to design, build, and operate the first coal-fired, emissions-free power plant.  Our Department is nearing agreement with the Alliance to begin the process of designing, constructing and operating the plant.

This is a major step for advancing coal-based technologies to generate electricity for families and businesses, and to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells for transportation. 

Now, I have mentioned several times how our Administration is committed to the promise of clean coal technologies.  But I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Congress is also fully committed to this effort as well.  In addition to broadly supporting clean coal in the Energy Policy Act, Congress has also appropriated more than our Administration requested for coal programs in FY 2006.  So the support for coal as part of our future energy needs is, in fact, very broad.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that we will continue investing in coal's future, because our ability to keep the lights on and our economy moving depends on coal.  And as we continue to develop innovative new technologies, we will help guarantee that coal continues to make a vital contribution to the future of our nation, as well as to economic development around the globe.  At the same time we are working to safeguard the environment for future generations.

Thank you.

Location: Washington, DC

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