Energy Department Official Parries GOP on Carbon Tech

The U.K. is cutting its cutting its financing of coal plants in other countries.
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Dec. 3, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

A seni­or En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cial is giv­ing a polit­ic­al as­sist to the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency by vouch­ing for car­bon-trap­ping tech­no­logy that EPA is es­sen­tially re­quir­ing for new coal-fired power plants.

Chris­toph­er Smith, the act­ing head of DOE’s fossil-en­ergy of­fice, said the tech­no­logy is ready and pledged to help speed its mar­ket pen­et­ra­tion in writ­ten com­ments to Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee law­makers.

The com­ments re­spon­ded to ques­tions from sen­at­ors — in­clud­ing Re­pub­lic­an crit­ics of EPA’s cli­mate reg­u­la­tions — as part of Smith’s nom­in­a­tion to form­ally be­come DOE’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for fossil en­ergy.

“[Car­bon cap­ture and stor­age] tech­no­logy has been and con­tin­ues to be de­ployed in a range of pro­jects. There are 12 large-scale CCS pro­jects in op­er­a­tion world­wide today,” Smith said in the com­ments, which were sub­mit­ted late last month and provided by the com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

He con­tin­ued, “If con­firmed, I will con­tin­ue to work with in­dustry in ad­van­cing CCS tech­no­lo­gies to con­tin­ue re­du­cing the cost of cap­ture, mak­ing CCS more ef­fi­cient, and pre­par­ing for wider-scale de­ploy­ment in fu­ture years.”

His com­ments ar­rive as Re­pub­lic­ans and some coal-coun­try Demo­crats are ham­mer­ing EPA’s pro­posed car­bon-emis­sions rules for fu­ture power plants.

The rules, floated in June, ef­fect­ively re­quire coal-fired plants to trap and store a sub­stan­tial por­tion of their emis­sions. Crit­ics of the pro­pos­al call it a de facto ban on new coal plants, as­sert­ing that the tech­no­logy is nowhere close to wide­spread read­i­ness.

Smith, in re­sponse to a ques­tion from Sen. John Bar­rasso, R-Wyo., cau­tioned that his agency does not de­term­ine wheth­er a tech­no­logy is “ad­equately demon­strated” with­in the mean­ing of the Clean Air Act. That’s EPA’s call.

But he noted, “All com­pon­ents of CCS, in­clud­ing large-scale CO2 cap­ture, trans­port­a­tion, and mul­ti­mil­lion-ton per year in­jec­tion, have been demon­strated world­wide and in the U.S. for many years.”

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