The coal industry must move aggressively to adapt to the new realities brought about by climate change.
That’s the message that Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal Dr. Julio Friedmann delivered in a keynote address at the 30th annual meeting of the National Coal Council May 14 in Washington, DC.
The National Coal Council is a federal advisory group that provides recommendations and guidance to the Secretary of Energy on policy issues pertaining to coal. The Council includes experts from industry and academia.
Pointing to the findings of the recently-released 3rd National Climate Assessment, Dr. Friedmann stressed that climate change is already having adverse impacts on the U.S.
“Climate change is not something that could happen down the road; it’s happening right now – and right here, “he said. “And it’s being driven in good measure by the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and especially from coal-fired power plants.”
The report – which incorporates the research of more than 300 climate scientists and experts – represents the most comprehensive scientific assessment yet of how climate change is impacting every region of the country and key sectors of our economy. The findings show that the average temperature in the U.S. has risen by 1.3°F to 1.9°F since 1895, with most of the increase occurring since 1970. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S.
Driven by the burning of coal, oil, and gas, and clearing of forests that have increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, temperatures are projected to rise another 2°F to 4°F in most areas of the U.S over the next few decades.
“These robust technical findings won’t go away,” stated Dr. Friedmann. And that means that technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be required to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.
CCS, the process of capturing and storing or re-using CO2 from coal-fired power plants and industrial sources, is an important part of the president’s Climate Action Plan to tackle climate change. It’s also a critical component of the Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to secure America’s energy future.
“CCS is the sine qua non of any CO2 mitigation strategy,” said Dr. Friedmann. “It’s not a magic bullet. It won’t solve all of our climate issues. But it is needed and it will help.” He also noted that CCS has been “widely demonstrated. We know it works.”
Pointing out that a broad range of experts from the environmental and scientific communities – including the respected International Energy Agency – support CCS to reduce CO2 emissions, Dr. Friedmann talked about the progress of the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) CCS program.
Since 2009, FE and its industry partners have made important advances toward commercialization of CCS. The current focus of the program is on the development of technologies that will help make CCS “a turn-key commercial operation at one-third the cost by 2030,” Dr. Friedmann told the audience.
Recognizing the importance of CCS to reducing carbon emissions from power plants that burn coal, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently unveiled new rules that require the technology for new coal-fired power plants. Those requirements have raised concerns among some in the coal and electric power industries. But Dr. Friedmann pointed out to industry representatives that climate change “will change the energy market and the way you do business. “
Noting how the coal industry responded to past technical and regulatory challenges, Dr. Friedmann urged the industry to “be proactive – and aggressive – in adapting to new realities. The way you always have.” Specifically, he called for the coal industry to work with the EPA to improve the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) governing greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.
“Instead of pushing back, push forward,” he told the audience. “Work with the EPA. Weigh in on the NSPS regulations – try to make it better. Our experience has been that the EPA is eager to have your perspective and your constructive engagement.”
At the same time, Dr. Friedmann stressed the importance of continued public-private collaboration to achieve commercial deployment of CCS, and pledged that the Administration will continue to support CCS development.
He also highlighted the importance of the National Coal Council, saying “we will continue to seek and value the Council’s input and constructive partnership…to ensure that coal has a strong future in a carbon-constrained world.”