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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Senate Energy Bill Update: Coal-to-Liquids Amendments Go Down in Flames

Senate rejects both Republican and Democrat-sponsored amendments to support the expanded use of coal-to-liquids synthetic fuel.

As the Senate continues debate today on the comprehensive energy package today (see previous posts here and here), two controversial amendments that would have supported the expanded use of coal-to-liquids fuels were voted down by a hefty margin.

The first proposal, submitted by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jim Bunning (R-KY) offered an coal industry-backed proposal that would create a national coal-to-liquid fuels standard that reaches 6 billion gallons by 2022. Aiming to quell debate about the environmental impacts of coal-to-liquids (CTL) fuel (see previous post), the Domenici/Bunning plan (Amendment 1628) would have required a 20% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional gasoline.

The amendment died on a 39-55 vote with several moderate/greener Republicans joining every Senate Democrat in opposing the amendment.

The proposal from the Democrat's side (Amendment 1614), porposed by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Jon Tester (D-MT), offered a $10 billion proposal to provide loans for carbon capture and storage equipment on coal-to-liquids plants.

Eligible plants would have to capture and store at least 75% of their carbon dioxide emissions and produce fuels with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that are 20% lower than equivalent conventional fuels (synthetic diesel would be compared to diesel, synthetic gasoline to gasoline, etc. rather than the Republican proposal which would compare all CTL fuels to conventional gasoline).

The bill would allow biomass to be blended with the coal to lower the lifecycle emissions of the fuel, making the target achievable, though not easy. The high environmental bar apparently frustrated the Republicans, who all voted against this amendment together with the greener Democrats.

The end result of this afternoon's debate is that, at least for now, the Senate energy package will move forward without any support for controversial coal-to-liquids synthetic fuels. Future amendments may find a compromise position that sneaks support for CTL into the bill.

(In fact, as I write this, I'm listening to Senator Baccus [D-MT] on C-Span discussing a package of financial incentives marked up by the Finance Committee that will likely be added to the bill and he's mentioned CTL several times. Not sure about the details of that amendment yet, but more to come. Support for CTL may be down, but not out...)

[A hat tip to Joe Romm at Climate Progress]


David said...

hey Jesse -- watch how this develops in the states.

The governor of Kentucky is considering calling the legislature into a special session for the sole purpose of passing a tax incentive bill to attract coal-to-liquid plants.

Alisha Fowler said...

Hey Jesse!

Nice coverage of all of the Senate happenings... hard to believe you're all the way out in OR.

What do you think of the energy bill now - with all of the voting done?

I've been blogging a bit for the national wildlife federation here in DC - - and they've been helping me give some comprehensive updates. At that site is their stance on what happened... and I think mine as well. Although, I am so bummed that Bingaman's RES was essentially forgotten. And this is also really the first piece of legislation I've followed closely - so it was disappointing in many ways.

But the CAFE seems good! Anyway, hope all is well -