U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that the Department of Energy should focus on developing a way to get rid of carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants.
“It would be a gift to the world to find a way to get rid of carbon – the only remaining pollutant from coal that we don’t know how to control,” Alexander told Energy Secretary Steven Chu during a Senate Budget Committee hearing. “If coal is half of our electricity and it’s American and it’s low-cost and we’ve got more of it than anybody, a mini Manhattan project on carbon capture as the National Institutes of Engineering has recommended would be a terrific goal for the new Secretary of Energy.”
Alexander also suggested using funds from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), created by the America COMPETES Act that Alexander helped pass into law, to tackle our most pressing energy problems. Alexander was both Republican manager of Senate debate on the America COMPETES Act and the lead Senate Republican conferee during the final negotiations on the bill with the House of Representatives.
“I hope you will use the new ARPA-E funding for such things as making solar power cost-competitive, finding ways for carbon capture, advanced bio fuels, and nuclear-waste reprocessing. If you have four mini Manhattan projects to deal with those things in the next five years, it would transform the world’s energy picture.”
Alexander stressed the necessity of involving nuclear power in the discussion on climate change: “Right now, 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity comes from nuclear power, so it’s almost impossible to think about dealing with climate change without involving nuclear power.”
Last May in Oak Ridge, Alexander proposed a new Manhattan Project to help America achieve clean-energy independence, outlining several “grand challenges” including carbon capture and storage, making plug-in electric cars and trucks commonplace, safely reprocessing and storing nuclear waste, and making solar power and advanced biofuels cost-competitive.