(Washington Examiner, July 17) – Coal is looking at a starring role during the Republican national convention, as support for clean coal takes a step toward greater bipartisan support.
The fossil fuel was included in the draft political platform ahead of this week’s convention in Cleveland.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who serves as the Republican National Committee’s platform chairman, said the final platform would seek to lay out an agenda that reverses the “failed” policies of the Obama administration. Barrasso’s state is home to one of the nation’s largest coal regions.
The draft platform includes a sentence in support of “clean coal,” an edit offered by David Barton, a Texas delegate.
“I would insert the adjective ‘clean’ along with coal particularly because [of] the technology we have now. So, ‘the Democrat Party does not understand that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable, domestic energy resource,'” the edit read.
Later in the week, coal supporters, some of whom are advocating that Barrasso’s committee include a “clean energy plank” in the platform, announced support for a new Democratic effort in Congress to extend tax credits for the coal technologies Barton alluded to in his edit.
The effort was led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who supports coal. She has railed against the administration’s climate rules as being unfair for her state, which is a large shale oil producer through fracking.
The primary co-sponsor of the bill is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who is seen as one the staunchest proponents of climate regulations in the Senate. He spent most of last week criticizing Exxon Mobil and conservative groups for hindering action on climate change.
Whitehouse wants to see coal-fired power plants, clean or otherwise, eliminated from the nation’s energy mix. But he signed onto the bill that would mean keeping coal in the mix while trying to solve the climate problem.
“Preventing the worst of climate change will mean deploying a broad range of technologies to reduce carbon emissions,” Whitehouse said. “This bill would provide a boost for entrepreneurs in Rhode Island and across the country who turn harmful carbon pollution into useful products. That incentive will spur economic growth and help protect our environment and public health.”
The bill would support “carbon capture technologies,” which strip carbon dioxide out of a power plant’s waste gas before it comes out of the smoke stack.
The carbon emissions are cooled and turned into a liquid, where they can be injected underground and hardened into something similar to concrete. Newer technologies can use the carbon dioxide in a variety of industrial process, including oil drilling. The technology is doable, but is mostly cost-prohibitive. No power plant has commercially deployed the technology. Most of the carbon-capture power plants being built in the U.S. have suffered from cost overruns and construction delays.
Proponents say the new bill’s tax credits would help put the technology back on track.
The bill would extend vital tax credits for the technologies to encourage investment, the senators say. “Using that tax credit as a starting point, the bill also provides a more robust and expansive credit system to encourage innovation. The credits also encourage the use of CO2 in enhanced oil recovery and beyond.”
Republicans are beginning to flock to the idea.
On Thursday, a number of GOP lawmakers endorsed the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
And Jay Faison, a conservative energy activist and head of the group ClearPath, joined with a number of coal companies and industry groups in support of the effort on Thursday.
Faison’s group is seeking to make “clean energy” part of the Republican platform that will go through final approval at the convention.
ClearPath promotes clean coal technology, hydropower, natural gas, nuclear power and innovation as part of the GOP clean energy plan. It does not support wind and solar or any policy that would drive up energy costs for Americans.
Faison joined with the coal coalition in praising the GOP’s support for the bill.
“Ensuring the vital role coal will play in a low-carbon, clean energy economy is a goal supported by both sides of the aisle,” the joint statement issued through ClearPath said.
Faison has been in discussions with the Republican National Committee about including some parts of his conservative energy plan in the platform, with an emphasis on carbon storage and innovation.
“We’re dealing with reality,” Faison told the Washington Examiner. “But it’s also about ensuring the necessary public and private efforts to foster innovation that will create the next generation of clean energy power, including capturing and storing carbon emissions from burning coal.”
Faison will be a featured speaker at news events hosted by the Washington Post and Politico on the sidelines of the GOP convention in Cleveland.