Senate Subcommittee Hearing Illustrates Importance of New Energy Tech

Nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal energy were considered as solutions to carbon emission, but with problems of their own, such as commercial deployment.

by Leah Nestor, Times West Virginian, Fairmont / July 26, 2017

(TNS) -- FAIRMONT — In a hearing on clean energy, chairman and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., heard from five experts in the field on ways to inhibit or efficiently use carbon emissions.

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety oversight hearing on “Developing and Deploying Advanced Clean Energy Technologies" purposed to consider the importance of new energy technology with the regulation and market inefficiency it faces.

“Over the last several years we have let (energy resources and scientific and engineering talent) those skills atrophy, leaving the major advances in these markets to foreign competitors due to a lack of policy vision,” Capito said.

“As we consider agency regulations and congressional legislation dealing with emission standards and energy permitting, we must consider whether we are protecting ourselves into harm’s way.”

The hearing included testimony from Jason Begger, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, who said technology should be apolitical.

“The U.S. could make its greatest impact by investing in technology development that could be utilized around the world,” he said.

Although the future of coal is uncertain, he said that international and national organizations acknowledge its global use for the foreseeable future.

He described competitions around the world focused on turning carbon emissions into an asset.

“Technology is the best way to ensure these countries have access to power, but yet can meet environmental goals,” he said.

Steve Bohlen, Global Security E-Program manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also mentioned that carbon-capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) is growing, but it is still under-utilized in the clean-energy industry.

Lawrence Liverpool National Laboratory, he said, has developed early stage technology for carbon dioxide (CO2) conversion into useful products like methanol, ethylene and methane.

“It turns out that it’s the CO2 itself that may actually become a more valuable product as we learn about catalysts and so forth to convert it to feedstocks that we now make out of petroleum,” Bohlen said.

Nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal energy were considered as solutions to carbon emission, but with problems of their own, such as commercial deployment. Concerns of advancement compared with other countries, beach erosion, rising sea levels and farming were also mentioned during the hearing.

Senator Tom Carper, D-Del.,?mentioned the threat climate change poses to agriculture, with the harvest date occurring sooner each year.

“He said when the blossoms on his peach tree bloom in the middle of February, that’s not good,” Carper said of his conversation with a farmer.

Carper added that government regulation has decreased carbon emissions, noting President Donald Trump’s previous statement to the contrary was not accurate. He asked the panel how important the federal government had been in providing a nurturing environment for clean-energy investment and job creation.

Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, responded that government investment in wind, solar and geothermal technologies had played a large role in deployment of those.

Bohlen stated, “Whatever (Congress) wants to invest in, they know they will get lower risks and more rapid commercialization by investing. This has been demonstrated over and over and over.”

Begger mentioned the need for realistic timelines to be imposed.

“From a utility industry perspective, when you look at the deadlines set for the Clean Power Plan, I mean five to 10 years is literally an impossibility to develop technology, to commercialize and employ that,” he said.

Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, associate laboratory director for the Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate, Idaho National Laboratory, stated, “If you’re really serious to at least maintain the technology leadership and regain the industrial leadership in nuclear energy especially in the advanced nuclear systems, I think it’s important as a nation for us to look at a different way of public-private partnership … and get those things to where they’re economically competitive, and then the private sector can take over and run with it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said, “I think every single one of the institutions here has a demonstrated record of understanding that climate change is serious and that it is significantly man-made and that its consequences are going to be very impactful if we don’t get ahead of it by dealing with carbon dioxide that is at the heart of the problem.”

©2017 the Times West Virginian (Fairmont, W. Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.