February 16, 2012

Manchin: Obama Wrong to Pick Winners and Losers When it Comes to Energy

Manchin grills Energy Secretary Chu on rationale for slashing funding for clean coal technology research when the Administration projects fossil fuels will provide more than 60 percent of our energy for decades to come

Manchin also questions Department of Energy policy reversal on coal-to-liquids technology

Video of the hearing is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-QCQgvzjcw

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today grilled U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the Obama Administration about picking winners and losers when it comes to research funding for critical domestic energy resources. Senator Manchin questioned how the Obama Administration can claim they’re advocating an “all of the above” energy strategy and at the same time cut funding for research into technologies that will help the country use our most affordable and abundant domestic energy source in a more clean and efficient way. 

Senator Manchin has often explained his pride in the fact that West Virginia uses all its natural resources to create energy, and he believes the Administration should not short-change any single resource, particularly coal.  

“I can’t figure out the rationale … when you cut funding to resources that will continue to provide the energy we’re dependent upon by your own estimation. It doesn’t make sense,” Senator Manchin said. “It doesn’t make any sense at all that we can’t do it better, cleaner, and work together.” 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, coal will continue to be the leading source of electricity in the United States for decades to come. 

As of 2010, 45 percent of the nation’s electricity was coming from coal, 24 percent from natural gas, 20 percent from nuclear, 10 percent from renewables, and one percent from oil and other liquids. The Department of Energy projects that fossil energy – including coal, natural gas, and oil – will provide 67 percent of our nation’s electricity in 2035. 

Despite recognizing our continuing need for coal, the Administration cut $93 million from coal research and development. 

At the same time, President Obama requested $2.7 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 47 percent increase from current levels. The Energy Information Administration has estimated that renewable energy sources will only generate 16 percent of our electricity in 2035.

And President Obama requested $770 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy, which is consistent with current funding levels. However, the Energy Information Administration projects that nuclear power will generate 18 percent of our electricity in 2035.

Senator Manchin also pointed out that the Department of Energy has requested no funding for coal-to-liquids technology.

“Last year when you came before us, you said that the Department of Energy was eager to promote research on coal-to-liquids that blended biomass into the fuel and had carbon-capture sequestration technology. And then you said, also, coal-to-liquids with carbon-capture and sequestration actually makes very clean fuels. And once you start blending in biomass, it becomes a real plus. It becomes carbon-neutral in a tailpipe emission. So for that reason, ‘the Department of Energy is very eager to promote that type of research.’”

In 2012, $5 million was included in the budget for coal-to-liquids projects. This year, the President’s budget includes no funding for this research.  

“Have you changed your position?” Senator Manchin asked. “What is the administration’s position now? And why would you have such a reversal?”

Secretary Chu acknowledged that these technologies are effective in carbon reduction and could provide no answer as to why the funding had been zeroed out.