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  July 30th, 2017 | Written by

Push for Clean Coal in Congress

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  • Trump: “We’re going to have clean coal — really clean coal.”
  • Trump's proposed budget slashes funding for programs that support clean coal R&D.
  • Clean coal attracts support from both sides of the political aisle.

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation that would give enhance tax credits for carbon capture and storage (CSS) projects.

President Donald Trump has pushed for clean coal as he has promised coal miners they will be going back to work. “We will put our miners back to work,” he said in March. “We’re going to have clean coal — really clean coal.” But his proposed budget slashes funding for programs that support research and development for the technology.

Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) introduced the bill last week, joined by 25 co-sponsors, including Senators Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Al Franken (D-Minnesota), and Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi).

CCS—sometimes referred to by the shorthand “clean coal”—attracts support from both sides of the political aisle because the sequestered carbon dioxide mitigates human impact on climate and the captured carbon has commercial uses. Oil drillers inject it into the ground to push out remote pockets of oil in a process called enhanced oil recovery. Others use it as a raw material in manufacturing of cement, steel, and industrial chemicals.

Thus far, few companies have found implementing CSS economical—a power plant in Mississippi showcasing clean coal with Energy Department grants shut down the operation last month—and environmental groups like the Sierra Club reject clean coal as an important element of US environmental policy.

The bill increases tax credits to $50 per ton of carbon dioxide stored underground and $35 per ton used in enhanced oil recovery, up from $20 and $10, respectively, and increases the cap on the number of tons of CO2 that can receive a tax credit.

But the president’s proposed budget cuts a key government program that supports research on CSS. The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy’s R&D budget would be slashed from $101 million to $16 million and R&D funds for carbon storage would be cut to $15 million from $106 million.

Another bad sign for the bipartisan bill is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not a co-sponsor of the bill, as we was last year when a similar measure was introduced. McConnell is focused on healthcare and a broad tax reform bill, but his stamp of approval is necessary for the legislation to move forward in the Senate.