Friday, February 14, 2014

Obama Administration Official Shilling Hard for Coal

People who don't listen to what the Obama administration like to complain about an imaginary war on coal. But if you listen to the actual words spoken by actual administration officials, they often sound a lot like coal executives. (I say executives because there are very few coal mining workers left - machines do almost all of the work now.)

Listen to Julio Friedmann, deputy assistant secretary for clean coal at the Energy Department, who makes the Obama administration sound incredibly desperate to be the coal industry's best friend:
Friedmann said it was “unquestionable” that coal would remain an essential element of a “vibrant” American energy portfolio but said it would be difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change without the use of CCS technologies.

“It's a technology that we simply need to have,” Friedmann said.
Why do we need to have carbon capture & storage coal-fired power plants? If solar, wind and tidal power become cheaper than even dirty coal - and in New England wind is already cheaper than coal - why would it be "questionable" to install as much clean energy as possible, blow up coal plants, and use gas-fired plants to fill in any gaps? (Gas plants can fire up much faster than coal plants and are much cheaper than nuclear.)

Is it to protect coal jobs? The solar energy industry already employs more people than the coal and gas industries combined. Why are Obama administration staffers like Friedmann be putting a thumb on the scale for coal? As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) explained, we should look out for the fate of high-carbon energy industry workers, but not at the expense of workers in countless other industries like fishing, skiing and foresting that suffer due to carbon pollution.

But as Andrew Breiner reports at Climate Progress, Friedmann has more reasons to advocate for carbon capture & storage coal plants than just, is it good for America? The real question is, is it good for Friedmann's past and likely future employers?
Friedmann is a Ph.D geologist, and comes to the DoE from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally-funded research organization, where he worked in carbon capture and sequestration. His resume also lists work with ExxonMobil and board memberships with the National Coal Council, a coal industry group that lobbies the government. He has also worked with energy companies, as well as with clean energy research organizations. [...]

The very existence of Friedmann’s clean coal post is boon for the coal industry. The possibility of “clean coal” is highly questionable, and industry has pushed the idea for decades to allay concerns about the environment and climate change. While the DoE has pursued a variety of worthwhile efforts to make fossil fuel production generate less CO2, it cannot do enough to make coal a fuel that can be safely pursued. But the DoE will continue to fund research and demonstration projects that support its desirability as a climate change solution, fostering positive public perceptions of coal, and decreasing the perceived urgency of abandoning it.
It is at this point I must remind you that this is a Democratic administration, which is allegedly the party that understands we need to get off of coal as quickly as possible if we have any hope of keeping climate change from becoming climate crisis.

No matter who's in charge in DC, the fix is always in for dirty energy. The default, the center of gravity, the least painful thing is to do what the polluters and their huge piles of desperately-needed campaign cash want you to do.

It's always up to average citizens to make our elected officials feel enough pressure to do the right thing. That's the only way things change.
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