Gazette photo by Lawrence Pierce
The University of Charleston’s forum on CCS brought a rare bit of calm and reason into West Virginia’s ongoing discussions about the future of our coal industry.
It was impressive and refreshing to have the nation’s Nobel Prize-winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, on stage with longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller, hashing out the importance of this technology if coal mining is going to continue in a carbon-constrained world. (See our Gazette print story on the event here)
Unfortunately, there was hardly any time at all for questions from the audience, and it was too bad that a bunch of folks from the industry front group America’s Power were trolling around in brand-name T-shirts as if it was their event.
During a very, very, very short question-and-answer session with the local media, I wondered if Secretary Chu was puzzled about why reporters kept asking him if coal miners should be afraid of the Obama administration or if CCS was going to put an end to coal mining:
Don’t fear the Obama administration … we’re trying to help not only West Virginia, but the rest of the country.
And Chu had to repeat this line about CCS at least twice before the local media seemed to understand what he was getting at:
It will save coal.
Who knows if Secretary Chu’s calm, somewhat geeky presentation — complete with PowerPoint, of course — will convince any of the business and industry leaders at yesterday’s event that global warming is real and that if they want coal to survive they better start working harder to make CCS work.
But the impression I remain left with is of Sen. Rockefeller essentially stealing the show. As I wrote for our print edition:
Speaking alongside Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Rockefeller made perhaps his strongest statements to date in support of the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions are changing the global climate in dangerous ways.
Rockfeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, also blasted industry leaders and members of West Virginia media who promote the notion that global warming isn’t real.
“I’m concerned that powerful voices in West Virginia continue to argue that climate change is a myth,” Rockefeller said. “I’m not on the same bandwagon that some of you are.”
The senator said that climate change skeptics are harming West Virginia by putting off efforts to perfect and deploy CCS, giving natural gas more time to cut into coal’s market and hurt mining’s long-term viability.
“Burying one’s head in the sand is not a solution, and can only backfire,” Rockefeller said.