Alter Imbalance In Coal Research

It makes no sense for the U.S. government to be concentrating on ways to stop using our most plentiful, economical source of energy – coal – instead of finding better ways to benefit from it. Yet that certainly seems to be the situation and the philosophy of President Barack Obama’s administration.

This, at a time when billions of taxpayers’ dollars are being poured into pie-in-the-sky non-alternatives such as solar and wind power. At the same time, tens of millions of consumers are being forced to spend billions of dollars a year unnecessarily as a result of ethanol requirements for gasoline, “renewable” mandates for power companies and other so-called “green” initiatives.

Even Obama’s Energy Department admits that for the foreseeable future, Americans must use large quantities of coal. About 37 percent of the nation’s energy supply in 2040 will come from that source, the government estimates.

Yet in comparison to what is being frittered away on impractical technologies, the government is spending just a pittance on research into burning coal more cleanly.

Two bills introduced in by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are aimed at beginning to reverse that imbalance.

Rockefeller’s bills would provide more federal funding for finding ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal. The measure calls for $1 billion to be spent during a 15-year period.

That is an insignificant amount compared to the need for government-funded research, of course. It is an indication of just how pitiful the Obama administration’s commitment to clean coal research has been.

Rockefeller’s other bill may be even more important. It calls for the government to provide $20 billion in loan guarantees for construction of new or retrofitted power plants using carbon-capture technologies. That could be a real help in encouraging electric companies intent on building gas-fired power plants to stick, instead, with more economical coal.

This is not the first time efforts have been made to shift the government’s emphasis away from shutting down coal-fired power plants. For example, Sen. Joe Manchin, also D-W.Va., has called repeatedly for more development of clean coal technology.

And just this month, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., introduced a bill to continue funding for the Fossil Energy Research and Development Program.

Given the near-hatred with which so many liberals seem to view coal, bills such as Rockefeller’s and McKinley’s may face uphill battles. But they and other lawmakers with realistic, truly science-based attitudes should keep fighting for the reasonably priced energy Americans need.