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Thursday, March 01, 2007 6:07 PM ET
Senators call for 'crash program' to develop clean coal technologies
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A national cap on carbon emissions would penalize states that rely more heavily on coal generation, Republican senators from the Midwest charged at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on state, regional and local perspectives on global warming. However, the idea of a federal "Apollo" program or "Manhattan Project" to develop and deploy clean coal technologies garnered bipartisan support at the March 1 hearing.

Carbon caps will hit states differently; Missouri produces about 85% of its electricity from coal, while New Jersey relies on coal for only 19% of its power, said Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo. Given that the Northeast states and California do not depend on coal, it is "no wonder the champions of caps" come from those states, Bond said.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, acknowledged that global warming is something that will have to be addressed but argued that the technology for sequestering carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants is not yet available. Given the importance of coal as an energy source in the United States, Voinovich said that the country "ought to have a crash program" aimed at developing more FutureGen plants.

"The real issue is technology. It's the thing that's holding us back," Voinovich said, adding that the federal government needs to "go full blast" to deal with issue.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., joined with Voinovich in calling for a major federal energy research initiative along the lines of the Apollo program, which sent a man to the moon, or the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed with Voinovich's and Clinton's call for a Manhattan Project-like federal effort to fund clean coal. "I believe clean coal is essential," she said.

Boxer said that 29 states, with a combined population of nearly 180 million people, already have some form of a climate action plan, with 14 of the states setting greenhouse gas reduction targets. "There is increasing bipartisan consensus that we need to move now to limit emissions," she added.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., also said that recognizing the regional impacts of proposed global warming legislation is important. He emphasized that coal, which is the nation's major energy resource, must be dealt with in an environmentally clean way.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said that Idaho is one of the cleanest states in the nation because of its abundance of hydro power. Greenhouse gas emissions "know no boundaries," which means that effective policies to address global warming will have to be forged at the national and international levels, Craig argued.

In response to testimony by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine detailing the state's initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Craig said that New Jersey could shut off its whole economy and it still would not result in an appreciable decrease in the global temperature.

"We can't change what is happening in the global environment because we're just a little slice of it," Corzine said, but without action, no changes will ever occur.

Voicing agreement with Corzine's approach to tackling global warming, Clinton said there have to be activities at all levels of society, from federal, state and local governments to individual citizens.

Voinovich said that the mayors and governors across the United States who are actively working on local and regional climate change programs should get together and fashion a "reasonable proposal" for capping carbon emissions to bring before Congress. "Cap-and-trade has always been no, no, no," Voinovich said, adding that if governors and mayors could get together to agree on a plan, maybe the Congress could get something done on global climate change.

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