Coal Tattoo

I was getting a little worried that maybe Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wasn’t feeling well. Really. I mean, he let Sen. Jay Rockefeller get out the door first in the race to criticize coal’s treatment in President Obama’s new budget proposal for the 2013 financial year.

But I should have known Sen. Manchin wouldn’t disappoint … here’s the statement just issued by his usually quicker-on-the-draw press office:

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today grilled U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the Obama Administration about picking winners and losers when it comes to research funding for critical domestic energy resources. Senator Manchin questioned how the Obama Administration can claim they’re advocating an “all of the above” energy strategy and at the same time cut funding for research into technologies that will help the country use our most affordable and abundant domestic energy source in a more clean and efficient way.

Senator Manchin has often explained his pride in the fact that West Virginia uses all its natural resources to create energy, and he believes the Administration should not short-change any single resource, particularly coal.

“I can’t figure out the rationale … when you cut funding to resources that will continue to provide the energy we’re dependent upon by your own estimation. It doesn’t make sense,” Senator Manchin said. “It doesn’t make any sense at all that we can’t do it better, cleaner, and work together.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, coal will continue to be the leading source of electricity in the United States for decades to come.

As of 2010, 45 percent of the nation’s electricity was coming from coal, 24 percent from natural gas, 20 percent from nuclear, 10 percent from renewables, and one percent from oil and other liquids. The Department of Energy projects that fossil energy – including coal, natural gas, and oil – will provide 67 percent of our nation’s electricity in 2035.

OK — now keep in mind, folks, that what Sen. Manchin once again conveniently leaves out when he rattles off these DOE statistics is that coal production in his region of Appalachian (especially in Central Appalachia, where most mountaintop removal is done) is forecast to be cut significantly over the next quarter-century. If he talked about that, Sen. Manchin would perhaps have to concede he hasn’t done much work to plan for what happens when the jobs disappear because of that lost production.

Sen. Manchin’s press release continues:

Despite recognizing our continuing need for coal, the Administration cut $93 million from coal research and development.

At the same time, President Obama requested $2.7 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 47 percent increase from current levels. The Energy Information Administration has estimated that renewable energy sources will only generate 16 percent of our electricity in 2035.

And President Obama requested $770 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy, which is consistent with current funding levels. However, the Energy Information Administration projects that nuclear power will generate 18 percent of our electricity in 2035.

Now, Secretary Chu tried to actually answer Sen. Manchin’s question — by explaining that the lack of a comprehensive climate change bill that sets caps on carbon dioxide emissions has led companies like American Electric Power to abandon any funding for major CCS projects:

We have to develop the technology to burn coal more cleanly. We still are committed to that. Unfortunately, a lot of the companies who had to supply matching funds – at last 50 percent — have pulled out.

Right about there, Sen. Manchin cut Secretary Chu off, saying he had limited time for questions and wanted to move on … Sen. Manchin went on to rant about what he said is a lack of Obama support for coal-to-liquids technology, forgetting to mention that his pet project in West Virginia doesn’t include any plans for capturing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Watch for yourself: