May 28, 2015

Manchin talks future of energy economy | Herald Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama and his administration 'sapproach to energy and the development of clean-coal technology during a meeting with The Herald-Dispatch's editorial board Wednesday.

"(What the Obama administration says) might sound good and it might look good, but at this point they are not putting their resources, their money where their mouth is to do the research for the technology," Manchin said.

Manchin said he told Obama in 2009 he has done a "horrific job" demonizing coal and recalled a time when the then-Illinois senator "worked well" with Manchin while he was West Virginia's governor on FutureGen 2.0, a near-zero emissions coal-fueled power plant in Meredosia, Illinois, which used safe and proven pipeline technology to transport and store CO2 underground.

Manchin said Obama "shut down completely" on coal when he became a serious presidential candidate. The United States Energy Information Administration, Manchin said, reported while Obama was in office that coal would be viable for at least three or four more decades.

"If we're going to need it and we have to have it, don't you think we have a responsibility to do the best we can to find the technology to use it better," Manchin said he asked Obama. "You are basically saying out of sight, out of mind and I'll do whatever I can to break them and throw them out. That's just wrong. It's self-inflicted, what you have done to (West Virginia)."

Manchin said the only person with whom he maintains any positivity about the future of coal is United States Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz.

"I have a good rapport with him and he is going to come to West Virginia," Manchin said. "I told him one size doesn't fit all. You treat Appalachian mining different than you treat other forms of mining and you're saying you have $8 billion set aside for clean-coal research, and you haven't invested any."

Manchin said Moniz also claims the private sector hasn't been advantageous in regard to using the guaranteed low-interest research funds, to which Manchin attributed to the Environmental Protection Agency providing a "moving target" when it comes to clean-coal energy research.

Manchin said he asked former FirstEnergy CEO Tony Alexander about his decision to close a $200 million, 1,500-megawatt supercritical coal-fired power plant in western Pennsylvania.

"He said he closed it because he didn't know how much more he was going to have to spend," Manchin said. "His stockholders were asking if he would ever be in compliance (with the EPA) and when he asked how much it would cost to close it, they gave him a figure and he told them to close it."

Rhetorically, Manchin asked if what Alexander did was a sound business decision or the result of the uncertainty of federal government regulations.

"The president has earned a lot of his poor standing in our state," Manchin said. "He's earned that reputation because of a poor energy policy. When you take jobs out of the marketplace and an economy and flatten that economy, you have done irreparable damage." 

Manchin said never is his life, through the ups and downs of the coal industry - the "cycle of coal," he called it - has mining experienced the federal government "jumping on its back and trying to drown us."

"I feel that way now," he said. "They have jumped on and trying to hold our head under the water."

Manchin also said clean-coal technology research should be done in West Virginia, which would create a new manufacturing base in the state.

"The world is going to burn more coal than ever," Manchin said. "West Virginia has the people with the knowledge, the expertise and the machinist to understand clean-coal technology."

Partnering with the state's universities for the research, Manchin said, is vital in order to provide timetables.

By:  Brandon Roberts