March 08, 2019

West Virginia Can Lead In Energy Solutions | The Charleston Gazette

When I was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, I knew I wanted to serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. My recent assignment to this committee ensures West Virginia has a seat at the table during important national energy policy discussions. That’s why becoming ranking member in January is so exciting.

In my first few months as ranking member, we have examined the state of energy markets in West Virginia, nationally, and globally, as well as important issues like global competitiveness in energy innovation and ensuring the cybersecurity of the energy sector. We also held the first Senate hearing in the 116th Congress examining the climate crisis.

These hearings have a real impact on our little state, as West Virginia ranks fifth among the states in total energy production, according to the Energy Information Administration. West Virginia also accounts for 11 percent of the nation’s coal production, and is among the top three states with the largest amount of recoverable coal reserves at producing mines.

Despite coal production declines around the country, in 2018 Appalachian coal production increased for the second year in a row, in large part due to growth in coal exports to India, Ukraine, Brazil and other nations.

Beyond our state’s leadership on energy production, West Virginians want to be part of climate solutions. I’ve visited with West Virginians from every corner of our state and I have never met anyone who wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air. The June 2016 flood that took the lives of 23 West Virginians is an example of the devastating environmental impacts we are already seeing.

Our communities feel these impacts disproportionately as we are already suffering from the downturn in coal production, resulting unemployment and the negative effects of coal company bankruptcies on retirement and health benefits. It’s past time to begin addressing the climate challenges we face both at home and across the world.

However, as we move this conversation forward, we must acknowledge that fossil fuels will continue to play an integral role in our electric generation here at home and abroad. According to the International Energy Agency, coal will continue to be a part of the world’s energy mix for at least the next two decades. In 2017, China and India used coal for 67 percent and 74 percent of their electricity, respectively. By 2040, the International Energy Agency models show that, under current policies, China will be depending on coal for up to 51 percent of its electric generation. In India, the number could be as high as 57 percent.

With that in mind, the United States must lead the world in pursuing the solutions that will allow us to burn fossil fuels in a cleaner, more cost-effective and efficient manner in order to achieve meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

We need to prioritize the advancement and commercialization of technologies in the power sector like carbon capture, utilization, and storage that we can employ both here at home and overseas. We should also continue working to increase efficiency and advance nuclear, storage capacities and the development of renewables such as solar, wind and hydropower.

There is no reason West Virginia communities cannot be part of these solutions. As we transition to cleaner energy technologies, we cannot leave anyone behind.

If given the opportunity, a coal miner will build you the best windmill you’ve ever seen. They’ll build the most efficient solar panel on the market and they can definitely build the advanced fossil technology to make coal and natural gas cleaner energy. This is where policies of the past have come up short.

We need cost-effective technology solutions that make us more productive and competitive in a global market while allowing us to lead on climate solutions. I am optimistic about our country’s ability to innovate and implement climate solutions because we fundamentally share these goals and have the know-how to tackle them together.

As ranking member of the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources, I will be fighting to ensure West Virginians are playing a meaningful role in these cleaner energy solutions, just as we always have in the nation’s energy sector.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin