The federal government would have to take several steps to reduce its own emissions. The plan calls for federal agencies to find 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, more than doubling the current goal of 7.5 percent. It will also strengthen existing efforts to promote energy efficiency, including the establishment of a standardized contract to finance federal efficiency projects.
"Agencies will also be directed to ensure that climate risk-management considerations are fully integrated into federal infrastructure and natural resource management planning," the plan says.
The plan will also make up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for various fossil energy and energy efficiency projects, to support "investment and deployment of advanced fossil energy technologies." That likely includes additional loan guarantees for carbon capture and sequestration, a technology envisioning the mass capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and storage of the heat-trapping gas underground.
Capturing carbon at 4 plants
The White House said the Department of Energy planned to issue a final solicitation under the Section 1703 loan guarantee program by this fall.
John Thompson, an analyst at the Clean Air Task Force, said the funds could provide a boost for the industry but would likely cover the cost of a few projects.
Carbon capture and sequestration has never been demonstrated at commercial scale on a large, fossil-fueled power plant, although there are two projects under construction in the U.S. and Canada.
"That would cover about four coal plants, or eight gas plants," he said about the plan's reach.
Because loan guarantees can take years to work their way through the federal system, they are more likely to assist new projects on paper, rather than carbon capture proposals far along in terms of engineering and design, said Thompson.
That means that proposals to attach emissions controls to gas-fired power plants—which tend to not be as far along in the planning process—could especially benefit, he said.
The cost of carbon capture and sequestration has prompted a wave of canceled projects in recent years. Last week, Tenaska Inc. announced plans to abandon two proposed carbon capture projects because of financing, following on the heels of Indiana Gasification LLC and other developers this year. The only carbon capture plant under construction in the U.S. on a coal-fired generator is Mississippi Power's Kemper plant, which costs more than $4 billion.
The speech is also designed to engage more citizen action by pointing to ways that people can get involved in reducing emissions. Obama is expected to identify ways to reach various interest groups to become involved, including religious people.
"We agree with President Obama that overcoming climate change will require all Americans to play our part in this great cause of freedom," said the Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network. "As a pro-life Republican, let me add that we must set aside partisanship and come together to protect God's creation from climate change."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500