By Miranda Green
April 12, 2019 - A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday to increase federal funding toward developing carbon capture technology while also committing to fossil fuel use.
Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the bill is being hailed as an important step to addressing climate change while not necessarily phasing out fossil fuel use.
“The energy experts who have come before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have been clear – fossil fuels are projected to be part of the generation mix through 2040, and likely beyond, and the United States needs to lead in technological innovations designed to reduce carbon emissions,” said Manchin in a statement.
“This is a critical piece of the solution addressing the climate crisis.”
In addition to Manchin, the Enhancing Fossil Fuel Energy Carbon Technology (EFFECT) Act is backed by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Shelly Moore Capito (W.Va.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Steve Daines (Mont.)
Carbon capture has long been an area where Republicans and Democrats have hinted there might be a potential for consensus on climate change.
While GOP senators have long resisted progressive efforts to transition the country away from fossil fuels, some have embraced the idea of carbon capture as an alternative.
Congress last year passed legislation to expand carbon sequestration tax credits to companies.
Environmentalists, though, have criticized the plan, arguing it is a Band-Aid for fixing the climate crisis and doesn’t address the heart of the issue — carbon emissions.
The technology also remains in its early stages and hasn't been widely adopted, due in large part to its implementation cost.
Manchin’s bill would direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish four new research programs within its Office of Fossil Energy. Those programs would be focused on carbon storage, carbon utilization, carbon removal and coal and natural gas technology, respectively.
The carbon removal program under the bill would specifically provide research and development for new technologies and strategies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large scale.
The program focusing on coal and natural gas would work towards developing “transformational technologies” to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the fossil fuel use.
“Carbon capture offers great potential to reduce emissions and will complement other clean technologies like advanced nuclear and renewable energy,” Murkowski said in a statement.
“This Act will utilize the considerable resources of the Department of Energy and its National Labs to address the scientific challenges in capturing carbon, creatively using it, and permanently sequestering it.”
Last week, another bipartisan group of 12 senators urged Senate appropriators to provide DOE with maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage.
The lawmakers, including four Republicans, argued that investment in creating viable options to capture carbon emissions released into the atmosphere could spur U.S. job growth and asked for research and development on the issue to be funded at the “highest possible levels.”