With the recent passage of the historic Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, one might think the Congress does not have much more to tackle in the second session of the 110th Congress.
That is exactly what I thought when I reported in to work after the holiday recess in January – that we, the energy committee staff, had worked very hard in 2007 and were due for some down time.
I couldn’t have been more incorrect.
The first topic to take center stage in 2008 was the discussion around passing a carbon reduction climate bill. The Environment and Public Works Committee reported out a controversial cap and trade carbon emissions reduction bill from their committee late in 2007.
It is quite possible that this bill will be debated on the floor of the Senate as early as April.
A major event that has been evolving over the past several months was the announcement of the “restructuring” of FutureGen, the near-zero emission coal project. The program is commonly cited as being one of the cornerstone programs of the DOE’s coal research program and one of President Bush’s premier energy initiatives.
The announcement of that cancellation has created a flurry of congressional activity, primarily from the Illinois Congressional delegation. The FutureGen Alliance announced that Illinois would receive the project, and within days of that announcement the Department of Energy headquarters announced that the program would be restructured.
The topic has been brought up at two recent hearings and likely will be a subject of much consternation in the coming months until the program design is resolved.
Carbon capture and storage continues to be a key issue as one possible solution for continued coal usage. With much attention focused on reducing carbon dioxide emissions while continuing to develop our abundant coal resources, this topic will be a top agenda item throughout this year and beyond.
In the president’s State of the Union address he identified the need for carbon solutions and cited continued commitment to CCS deployment. Other areas of continued interest include a host of important topics, including:
- High energy prices.
- American competitiveness (the America COMPETES Act).
- Economic incentives for implementing advanced energy technologies.
- Strategic energy security.
- The Agricultural bill.
- Energy infrastructure.
These are among many areas for possible oversight and/or legislation, but as the year unfolds, I suspect there will be many other surprises that will keep Congressional staff busy into the wee hours of the night.