(The Hill, July 15) – Is it possible in this contentious political year that there may be some energy and environment policies on which Republicans, Democrats, environmental groups and a major coal producer like Cloud Peak Energy can agree?
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have acknowledged that affordable fossil energy will be part of our energy generation mix for the foreseeable future. Mr. Trump has said he will put miners back to work, while a draft Democratic Party platform includes the following: “The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind – including coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations.”
Secretary Clinton has said that fossil energy will be part of the generation mix in the 21st Century, albeit in a different way than it generated electricity in the 20th century. While 100-percent renewable energy is her goal, she has also recognized that we need to develop the capability to reduce carbon emissions through technologies like Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) which captures the CO2 emissions from power plants before storing them permanently in the ground where they came from. Indeed, while campaigning in Kentucky she expressed strong support for CCUS saying, “We’ve got to do a lot more on carbon capture and sequestration and try to see how we can get coal to be a fuel that can continue to be sold and continue to be mined.”
I cannot agree with Secretary Clinton on other positions she has taken on coal, such as her seeming support for efforts to stop mining on federal lands. However, I applaud her commitment to CCUS as a means of reconciling concern for the environment with concern for coal communities.
Independent polls have shown that Americans want action to address climate change. Cloud Peak Energy believes that concerns about climate and CO2 should be addressed in a meaningful way through technology development, specifically the commercialization and deployment of CCUS. In this, we are in full agreement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has stated that achieving goals of climate stabilization will be 138-percent more expensive, and may not be possible at all, without widespread deployment of CCUS.
There is a potential bipartisan common denominator here which could represent a win for all: the goals of maintaining reliable, affordable energy, taking meaningful action on CO2 and climate, promoting job security in coal country, and allowing States and local governments to continue funding public services that depend on coal industry revenues.
This week, a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota introduced legislation that could help lead to commercial scale CCUS and major long-term cuts in CO2 emissions. That bill, and similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), with numerous bi-partisan co-sponsors, offers a pathway to serious long-term cuts in CO2 emissions while protecting the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of American workers, and the communities they live in across the country. Our company and other organizations, including several major environmental organizations, support these bills.
These bills are the latest indication of a growing bi-partisan consensus that CCUS can help reduce CO2 emissions, protect the jobs and communities of people who depend on coal and natural gas, and avoid sharp energy price increases for those least able to afford them. I applaud Senator Heitkamp and her co-sponsors for their bill. I also applaud the many Republicans who are supportive of CCUS. Regardless of who wins in November, we look forward to working with the next Administration to further this consensus on achieving meaningful carbon emissions reduction through CCUS technology.
Colin Marshall is President and CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, headquartered in Gillette, Wyo. and one of America’s largest coal producers.