Energy Chief Tries to Spark Clean Coal Under Obama Plan

The U.S. Energy Department said it is restructuring a loan guarantee program designed to reduce carbon emissions from coal, oil and natural gas after an effort focused solely on coal failed to back any projects.

The reshaped plan, announced today by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, is part of President Barack Obama’s strategy to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Power plants are responsible for about 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with coal accounting for the bulk of the CO2 released from electric utilities. Most scientists say carbon emissions are contributing to the planet’s warming.

“These investments will play a critical role in accelerating the introduction of low-carbon fossil fuel technologies into the marketplace and reduce greenhouse gas pollution,” Moniz said in a statement.

The Energy Department hasn’t touched its $8 billion in loan guarantee authority that Congress provided in a 2005 energy law for advanced fossil-energy projects. A 2008 solicitation for companies’ bids focused solely on carbon capture projects at coal plants.

The Energy Department may now back projects that capture waste heat from industrial plants and limit methane emissions during oil production, as well capture and store carbon from coal-fired plants.

The solicitation will be completed probably sometime in September after a public comment period ends, Moniz told reporters today.

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