Bush energy budget bypasses Western clean coal
GILLETTE, Wyo. – Proposed “clean coal” projects in Wyoming and the West were left out of the Bush administration’s budget plan for the U.S. Department of Energy.U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., grilled Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman last week for not following certain directives set forth by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.Provisions such as a Western coal-gasification demonstration project are being passed over in the DOE’s budget in favor of biofuels programs and the zero-emissions FutureGen project – a program that already eliminated Wyoming as a potential site.Thomas demanded answers from Bodman during a recent Senate Energy Committee oversight hearing as to why the administration was not funding clean coal technologies.Bodman is expected to provide written responses to the oversight committee.Thomas said his criticism of the Department of Energy budget proposal is a matter of balancing priorities. Western coal gasification should be considered a near-term strategy, while hydrogen and biofuels are part of a longer-term strategy toward becoming more self-reliant on domestic resources.”It’s a matter of how much do you put into future alternative fuels as opposed to these other fuels that we already know how to use,” Thomas said.Congressional delegates from coal supply regions in the West and East are competing against each other for federal dollars to prove the commercial viability of clean coal technologies, including integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, for electrical generation.Although Thomas was able to insert the provision for a Western IGCC demonstration project into the Energy Policy Act, he has yet to convince federal officials to put money toward it.In addition, federal loan guarantees that would sway the investment community toward such clean coal efforts are not being funded either.The administration’s proposed budget includes more money for coal research and development, but Jim Childress, executive director of Gasification Technologies Council, said those research programs still suffer from several years of minimal appropriations.That has fueled competition between Western and Eastern coal interests, he said.”We think you need to be able to access both coal resources – Powder River Basin coals as well as Eastern coals,” Childress said. “Any federal program ought to address both of those resources.”
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