Subcommittee Reviews DOE’s Plans for FutureGen
(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Science and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing to review the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision to restructure its signature climate change initiative, FutureGen. Subcommittee Members questioned witnesses regarding the process by which DOE made the decision to undertake a major revision of FutureGen and whether this is the best path forward to develop and demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies.
Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) stated his concerns about the Administration’s justification for the major revision of FutureGen. "Climate change is a tremendous environmental challenge. If we are to meet this challenge, new low- to no- emission technologies are absolutely necessary. Our ability to rely upon coal to produce electricity depends upon the successful development and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration systems. For the last five years, the Administration has told us that FutureGen was the key project that would move coal-fired electricity production forward. But now they are telling us we must go in a new direction."
In early 2003, DOE announced its plans for a federal pollution-free power plant. By late 2007, the DOE finalized FutureGen’s Environmental Impact Statement. Originally, FutureGen was established to accomplish three main tasks: produce hydrogen, demonstrate CCS technologies, and serve as a test bed for emissions of cleaner coal technologies. Due to growing concerns over climate change, there is a need for the DOE to accelerate the development of CCS technologies in a cost-effective manner.
"We must have a comprehensive, well-managed and coordinated research, development and demonstration program to ensure we design the most effective technology strategy forward to help solve the climate change problem," said Lampson. "We all know that coal supplies approximately 50% of the electricity in the United States, but we also know that coal-fired power plants contribute considerably to our greenhouse gas emissions. If we need coal for power, then we need technology solutions to burn it more cleanly because the problem of climate change is real."
Early this year, DOE announced a large scale restructuring of the FutureGen Program. Under the revised plan, the agency will join industry’s efforts to establish Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) clean coal power plants. Instead of building a small-scale clean coal power plant, DOE will provide additional funding to multiple IGCC coal power plants for CCS technologies.
Full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) also expressed concern that the revised FutureGen program will delay the demonstration and advancements in CCS technologies. "I think it is unfortunate that the Department chose to make this sudden shift in the FutureGen program with no congressional consultation. I am very concerned that this major revision of FutureGen will delay our development of these technologies which in my opinion is terribly unwise. I believe that investment in advanced technologies such as renewables, increased energy efficiency, and carbon sequestration are integral pieces in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We cannot afford to take any steps backwards in our federal initiatives to address the challenge of climate change."
Subcommittee Members heard testimony from Mr. C.H. "Bud" Albright, Under Secretary of Energy for the DOE; Mr. Jeffrey N. Phillips, Program Manager for the Advanced Coal Generation EPRI; Mr. Ben Yamagata, Executive Director for the Coal Utilization Research Council; and Mr. Paul W. Thompson, Senior Vice President of Energy Services at E.ON U.S. LLC.