China, US seek ‘clean coal’ agree­ment as in­dus­try strug­gles

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

U.S. and main­land China of­fi­cials took a ma­jor step Tues­day to­ward an agree­ment to ad­vance “clean coal” tech­nolo­gies that pur­port to re­duce the fuel’s con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change — and could of­fer a po­ten­tial life­line for an in­dus­try that’s seen its for­tunes fade.

The agree­ment be­tween the U. S. Depart­ment of Energy and main­land China’s Na­tional Energy Ad­min­is­tra­tion would al­low the two na­tions to share their re­sults as they re­fine tech­nolo­gies to cap­ture the green­house gases pro­duced from burn­ing coal, said Christo­pher Smith, the U.S. Energy Depart­ment’s as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for fos­sil energy.

Terms of the deal were fi­nal­ized late Tues­day. Of­fi­cials said it would be signed at a later date.

Smith spoke af­ter he and other se­nior of­fi­cials from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of main­land China’s Na­tional Energy Ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing an in­dus­try fo­rum in Billings. The dis­cus­sions took place near one of the largest coal re­serves in the world — the Pow­der River Basin of Mon­tana and Wy­oming, where mas­sive strip mines pro­duce roughly 40 per­cent of the coal burned in the U.S.

But clean-coal tech­nolo­gies are ex­pen­sive, and ef­forts to de­velop them for com­mer­cial use have strug­gled to gain trac­tion in the U.S. Some crit­ics de­scribe clean coal as an im­pos­si­bil­ity and say money be­ing spent on it should in­stead go to­ward re­new­able energy.

China leads the world in coal use. It pro­duces and con­sumes about 4 bil­lion tons an­nu­ally, four times as much as in the U.S.

Shi Yubo, vice ad­min­is­tra­tor of main­land China’s energy agency, told del­e­gates to the fo­rum that coal will con­tinue to play a role in China’s de­vel­op­ing econ­omy. “But we need to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to de­vel­op­ing clean coal tech­nol­ogy,” he added through an in­ter­preter.

Shi said main­land China was seek­ing to de­velop more demon­stra­tion projects that cap­ture car­bon to pre­vent it from es­cap­ing into the at­mos­phere. He ac­knowl­edged that ef­forts to put the green­house gas to ben­e­fi­cial use “are still far be­hind.”

Mean­while, the U. S. coal in­dus­try has suf­fered a beat­ing in re­cent months, with ma­jor min­ing com­pa­nies go­ing bank­rupt.

The U.S. In­te­rior Depart­ment is propos­ing hikes on coal roy­al­ties and pos­si­bly lease pay­ments for pub­licly owned re­serves of the fuel in ar­eas such as the Pow­der River Basin. Also, cheap nat­u­ral gas is squeez­ing out de­mand for coal, and Obama has made re­duc­tions in car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from coal­fired power plants a key com­po­nent of his cli­mate pol­icy.

“You’ve got to de­velop wind and so­lar and de­velop nu­clear, but you also have to deal with the chal­lenge of re­duc­ing the green­house gas im­pacts of coal-fired power plants,” Smith told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It’s pos­i­tive if those projects (to cap­ture car­bon) get built here. It’s pos­i­tive if those get built in China and In­dia and Europe and around the world.”

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