By West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin
May 2, 2017 - It remains undeniable that West Virginia and the United States have an abundance of natural resources, and throughout our history, we have used and relied on these resources, particularly coal, to build and defend the nation. But for the last eight years, we had to work with an administration that denied just how important coal is to keeping America secure.
I have worked tirelessly to undo the devastating burden that overregulation placed on West Virginia’s economy and our communities. In 2015, I introduced a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval to stop the Obama administration from imposing the Clean Power Plan, an anti-coal regulation, on new coal-fired plants.
These regulations forced coal-fired plants to meet emissions standards that could not be achieved, even with the most advanced technology. Forcing coal to meet these standards — when experts know that the required technology was not sustainably operational on a commercial scale — made absolutely no sense.
But here’s what does make sense: Let’s secure the future of coal through pursuing and supporting advanced coal technologies and efficiencies. Coal continues to be one of our most reliable sources of electricity. Today it is about 30 percent of our electricity mix and provides reliable, affordable 24-7 power. And according to the Department of Energy, the U.S. will continue to depend on coal for years to come. In fact, in 2016, the Energy Information Administration projected that, in the absence of the Clean Power Plan, 26 percent of our electricity will continue to be generated from coal through 2040. So it’s vital that we pursue clean coal technologies to continue to provide fuel diversity and reliable, affordable energy.
In the Energy Policy Modernization Act that passed the Senate last year, I secured several provisions that would modernize the Fossil Energy program at the Department of Energy in a way that gets our research dollars back to work on outcome-based results. I am working with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look at why the federal government has not awarded more loan guarantees to fossil energy projects. And I am supporting the pursuit of carbon capture utilization and sequestration technology at our universities, our labs and at our power plants.
In the meantime, India and China will continue to use and build additional coal-fired capacity. That is a reality that we should consider an opportunity — not a catastrophe. As a nation that built its greatest successes on coal energy, it makes good sense that the United States leads in bringing clean coal technology to commercialization — and exports that technology to the rest of the world.
Let’s focus on leading the way in the development of clean coal technology. American ingenuity should be harnessed right now — not restrained — to ensure our future at home and to be a leader for the world. It’s the answer that strikes a balance between the economy and the environment, and one that I’m going to keep working toward.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he is ranking chairman of the subcommittee on energy and a member of the subcommittees on water and power, and public lands, forests and mining.