Mining aid may change
Under fire from coal producers and lawmakers from coal-producing states, the Obama administration is revamping an $8 billion federal loan-guarantee program to help companies reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
The plan is part of a broader strategy for dealing with the risks of climate change that President Obama discussedlast week. His policy relies on cuts to carbon emissions at new and existing power plants that will probably reduce coal use in the United States.
Republicans and coal-industry executives say the effort will cost jobs in states such as Kentucky and Ohio, where coal is produced and provides relatively cheap power to manufacturers. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Wednesday the new effort on loan guarantees shows the administration isn't anti-coal.
“The issue here is to prepare for the future, a future in which coal is in fact part of the mix,” Moniz said in a conference call with reporters.
Electric utilities are responsible for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with coal accounting for the bulk of the carbon dioxide released. Most scientists say carbon emissions are contributing to a warming of the planet. Obama said in a June 25 speech at Georgetown University that mitigating the threat is one of his second-term priorities.
“I don't have much patience for anyone that denies that this challenge is real,” Obama said. “Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm.”
The speech revived accusations from coal advocates that Obama is waging a “war on coal.” The industry had sought to popularize that refrain in swing states that produce coal during the 2012 presidential campaign, without much effect. Obama won in Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania, where coal producers targeted much of their efforts.
Christopher Bosso, a political science professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said the federal aid to the coal industry could help protect Democrats who are facing election in 2014 in coal-centric states.
“I think that all Obama and his Energy secretary can do is try to hunker down and make the argument that they are making,” said Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee cited Obama's climate-change plan in a July 1 news release criticizing Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat who is running for the Senate in Kentucky against incumbent Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The president views this as a legacy issue, and on this point he and I agree,” Mike Duncan, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in speech on June 26. “But that legacy is going to be higher energy costs, less reliable electricity, lost jobs and a shattered economy.”
Federal loan guarantees are intended to quiet objections to Obama's climate plans, said Michael McKenna, a Republican political strategist and lobbyist with MWR Strategies Inc. in Midlothian, Virginia.
The money can “help those who care about coal pretend that this administration can be negotiated with,” McKenna said in an e-mail.
He said carbon-capture technology hasn't been shown to be economically efficient.
“We're encouraged that the administration recognizes the need to develop carbon-capture and storage” Lisa Camooso Miller, a spokeswoman for the clean-coal group, said in an e- mail.
The Energy Department seems to acknowledge the difficulty it has had in finding carbon-capture projects worthy of federal backing in its revamped plan. Congress gave the department the authority to issue as much as $8 billion in loan guarantees to clean fossil energy projects in 2005.
In 2008, the department solicited proposals for clean coal projects. It hasn't touched the money.
The plan expands eligibility to proposals that reduce emissions from oil and gas drilling, and for energy-efficiency efforts such as capturing waste heat from large industrial facilities to make electricity. Clean-coal projects remain eligible for aid.
To get a guarantee, companies backing projects would have to pay a credit subsidy fee to the United States as a hedge against default.
Coming up with the credit subsidy costs remains a hurdle for most companies, said Christine Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners LLC in Washington.
“The economics on clean coal is still very difficult given modestly priced natural gas,” Tezak said in an e-mail. Of the new loan guarantee announcement, she said: “It certainly seems intended to blunt the ‘war on coal' criticism.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, which supports Obama's climate push, said reducing carbon dioxide emissions doesn't need to cost jobs.
According to a report written by a pair of NRDC staff members, cutting emissions could result in a net increase of 210,000 jobs as workers install carbon-capture technologies, efficiency systems and clean-energy projects.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shale gas violations down as DEP steps up inspections
- Gasoline prices down nearly a dime in Pittsburgh area
- After 90 years, Goodyear forces iconic blimp into retirement
- Alpha Natural Resources executive resigns amid restructuring
- Trib Total Media puts 9 Western Pa. newspapers up for sale
- ‘Rank and yank’ doesn’t meet all expectations
- Macy’s prepares outlet stores
- Hackers have wide reach
- Allstate patents driver analysis
- US stocks pare losses after 1,000-point Dow plunge
- Clean Air Council challenges Sunoco Pipeline’s public utility status