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Senator Proposal Could Save Coal Industry

Ohio Senator George Voinovich and West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller are promoting something that will secure the future of coal in years to come. It's called carbon capture and storage. Essentially it's a process where fossil fuels are burned for energy, and the carbon dioxide that's emitted as result is captured and then stored underground.

Attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council Will Reisinger says 90 percent of Ohio's energy is generated from burning coal.

"It's obvious that we're not going to be able to overnight transition to solar, wind, renewable biomass generation. So for the foreseeable future coal is going to be part of our energy equation," Reisinger says.

In 2009, Ohio-based energy company, American Electric Power, built a carbon capture and storage system at an energy plant in Virginia. The company says ninety percent of carbon dioxide emissions will be contained once the system is complete. AEP says it's now trying to make the technology available on a commercial scale, but that comes at a cost. The U.S. Department of Energy paid for half of the cost for the Virginia plant, up to $334 million.

To make this technology available to Ohio companies, Voinovich says his proposal includes $20 billion in grant money and the promise of tax credits once carbon emissions are neutralized. He also says every household would pay a $10 fee per year.

"This money is going to provide the technology we need so we can continue to burn coal, save jobs in Ohio, save jobs in West Virginia, and continue to give the American people the opportunity to take advantage of 250 years of a resource that we would be crazy to turn our back on," Voinovich says.

Voinovich says he expects legislation that backs his proposal to pass by the end of this year.

Jen Monroe, WOSU News.