February 3rd, 2010
04:35 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama announces 'clean coal' task force


A coal scraper machine works on a pile of coal in West Virginia. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he is forming a task force to oversee how the United States can "deploy affordable clean coal technology on a widespread scale within 10 years."

At a meeting with governors from both parties and senior Cabinet members, including Vice President Joe Biden, Obama said he believes that taking the global lead on developing technology to remove carbon pollutants from coal-fired energy production is vital for future economic prosperity.

Goals of the task force include having 10 commercial power plants with clean-coal technology operating as demonstration projects by 2016, Obama said.

"If we can develop the technology to capture the carbon pollution released by coal, it can create jobs and provide energy well into the future," he told reporters.

The initiative is part of a set of moderate energy policies outlined by Obama in his State of the Union speech last week and expanded on Wednesday.

He re-emphasized his strong support for developing alternative clean energy sources to fossil fuels such as oil and coal as a way to both reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and build U.S. economic growth. He called such a strategy smart policy in a world still dependent on fossil fuels but trying to shift to new alternatives.

The United States will continue to use coal as an energy source for years to come, the president said, while emerging economies such as China are building new coal-fired plants to meet their expanding energy needs. With the world also focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal energy and other sources, developing technology to remove carbon pollution from coal plant emissions makes sense, he said.

He acknowledged that some people remain skeptical that climate change is an immediate threat, saying: "Climate change is one of the reasons why we have to pursue a clean energy agenda, but it's not the only reason, so even if you don' t believe in the severity of climate change as I do, you still should want to pursue this agenda."

Other aspects of what Obama called a non-ideological energy policy included expanded use of nuclear energy, more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, and increased emphasis on developing clean energy alternatives.

"We can't afford to spin our wheels while the rest of the world speeds ahead," he said.

In a briefing with reporters after Obama's meeting with the governors, Cabinet secretaries outlined other steps announced Wednesday, including a report by a biofuel task force set up previously that outlines the plan for meeting a goal of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022.

The biofuel task force plan upgrades the status of corn ethanol as a clean energy source, with the goal of attracting more investment into corn ethanol production, said Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Filed under: Energy • President Obama
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    Claiming to use coal cleanly, is kinda like saying you are gonna take the mercury out of the sea.

    February 3, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Dan

    Another side kick.
    Avoiding the main issues (jobs, deficit, national security) and concentrating instead on minor issues like legal aid to terrorists, energy that wasts everyone's own energy in its pursuit, tax care (err.. AKA health care)... What a professorial president dealing with purely academic issues when the world is boiling!

    February 3, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. cw217

    Should read:
    "Obama announces 'corporate welfare & business as usual' task force."

    February 3, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Too expensive and it'll never work. Still, I guess he has to do something to appease the hick coal-state senators. Good luck with that, Mr. Prex. Have a nice day!

    February 3, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. Too much government

    Hurray! More task forces and committees by Obama. That and the fact that he will increase the number of government employees to over 2.2M in 2010. More people feeding off of the shrinking private sector–paid by taxing the wealth-creators.

    February 3, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. Mike1952

    He's finally coming around on energy.

    February 3, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  7. Craig Nazor

    This is a waste of time and money. "Clean coal" technology does not now exist, at least partly because true clean coal technology would include disposal of coal ash, which is currently not even regulated. This is a sell-out to the huge financial interests invested in coal.

    When is America ever going to learn that we cannot buy a clean planet? We will only have a clean planet when we learn to live within our ability to clean up the mess we make, and that will only happen when the cost of the things we want truly includes the cost of the environmental damage that making those things produces.

    Don't hold your breath.

    February 3, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  8. T'SAH from Virginia

    Everything he promised during his campaign..... His efforts are amazing but his RIGHT is against everything he proposes!!!

    People need to keep in mind that President Obama won the election and the ones who have SHORT TERM MEMORY should repeat this everyday - President Obama is for the middle class and 95% of Americans are MIDDLE CLASS!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Rob Johnson

    It would benefit everyone to make coal as clean as possible, just because we aren't getting rid of it any time soon, but it is an inherently dirty and primitive 19th century technology. Nothing will change that.

    Even if you could reduce all air pollution from burning coal, unless you stop people from blowing off mountain tops to get the stuff in the first place, it's not exactly "clean" now is it?

    This is 2010. We have the technology to create electricity without using unsustainable, dirty fossil fuel technologies. Yes we can!

    February 3, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. barbara

    At last. Clean coal is the very best answer to our power needs. I hear constant talk of nuclear power with no mention of the horror associated with that. Yes France has lots of it but what do they do with the waste. Most European countries with nuclear power ship the waste out of their own country to some poor group that cannot know what it can do. Should we ship ours to Canada or Mexico?

    I am 100% for clean coal.

    February 3, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. Mike in MN

    Is this more talk to fool indpendents for the 2010 election or does Obama mean it this time? Was there any money for clean coal development like there is for wind and solar, or just a task force to study it? I'll believe Obama will allow offshore drilling for oil when a bill is passed allowing it and the riggs go up, not before. I'll believe Obama is serious about more nuclear energy when the permits are released for more power plants and construction begins, not before. Any voter that takes Obama at his word is a fool. He tells us what he thinks we want to hear. Only trust what he actually does.

    February 3, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  12. No Incumbents 2010

    There is no such thing as clean coal technology. It is a buzzword used only to pander to the coal industry. We should develop domestic natural gas reserves and use this fuel until we can rely on 100% clean energy.

    February 3, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    I don't know but I find it humurous and pleasantly surprised how our President got all these unique groups to look carefully at a certain task. I think "Czars" was the right word...I don't like that word, tell him to find a better one.

    Does he know it cost money? I just wanna make sure, that's all.

    I don't know about clean coal but I prefer offshore drilling, we have the tech to find it quicker and probably produce it efficiently. It can take an awful long time but when the energy crisis comes back, then we'll repeat history again.

    February 3, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. Kate in SW Fla

    This is the smartest President we have had since JFK. Brilliant, such a quick study, and already well versed on all major topics. To call him a Socialist, and treat him with such contempt, the Republican leadership has shown itself to be the biggest obstruction to progress in the history of our country. If they would just work WITH him, he has demonstrated over and over again that he wants very much to govern from the Center. But that, of course, messes up their agenda, so they treat him more like a terrorist than a President. But I trust America. They got it right last November and I think they will again.

    February 3, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  15. Jane/Seattle

    For the billionth time, People: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL! Wake-up and smell the Corporate Doo Doo here, folks! These Commerce types are Mining and KiIling huge numbers of Fish in the Oceans and destroying so many species to extinction and all of the eco-systems they possibly can! When the "Ancient Sunlight-OIL" (Thom Hartmann) is all gone, then what? When all the soil is depleted, then what? When all the Trees are gone, then what? When all the Rain Forests go to Global Corporatists, then what? When we take our collective last breath, then what? This President is NOT to me BECAUSE he listens to all the Wrong advice, wrong economists, wrong environmental info, and he bails out the WRONG people! Period! And I am on the Left! We want another way to sustain this Earth.

    February 3, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  16. Nevada dude

    the naysayers end up being the Democrats this time.

    this is a good idea, even if all the pieces arent in place yet. we should invest in clean coal reasearch to improve mining techniques including what to do with byproducts. once that is all solved then we have an energy source for 200 years and we could finally tell those middle eastern countries to go pound salt.

    February 3, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. annie against biased news

    obama just needs to announce his resignation.

    February 3, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  18. Orange Curtain, CA

    Yeah I'm not so sure about "Clean" Coal. Sounds like a marketing gimmick. Obama should stick with proven reliable "clean" energy: Solar, Wind, Hydro, Geothermal. Oil, Coal and Nukes gotta go. Proven renewable sources are the way of the future and you never have to import from other countries that send people here to bomb us.

    February 3, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |

    I worked in a coal mine for a while. We used to dump 5 gallons of used oil from the machinery on the ground in the mine every night. All kinds of waste, parts, chemicals, etc.. were left in the mine, just to get the coal. The coal seams are getting smaller and smaller all of the time. Mines are shutting down because it is unprofitable and UNSAFE to try to get the coal. Every time I see these clean coal comercials on TV, it MAKES ME WANT TO PUKE or punch the spokesmans / woman's lights out.
    Move on to better technologies!!

    February 3, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  20. ICARE - countdown to 2011

    Why dont we invest in the future and build a future where everyone hovers? With flood and rain, there is nothing good about earth....

    February 3, 2010 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  21. Spirit of America

    clean coal, like a just war, is an oxymoron.

    February 3, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    As everyone here knows, I support the guy, but anyone with a brain in their head knows there is no such thing as "clean coal." That's no different than claiming you can squeeze out a "fresh-scented poo." It's a misnomer and the best you could hope for is "cleaner" coal. We're chasing rainbows on this just to pander to the people who still work in the industry and like to blow the tops off mountains in WV. Not that the coal industry should be immediately stopped and shut down, but it should certainly be responsibly phased out as new green fuels present better options. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" – Emerson.

    February 3, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  23. Obama/Biden

    Washington is divided by partisan politics including a racial politic. President Obama agenda cannot clear republican congress just because the president defeated John McCain that is why McCain as a pay back oppose everything the president propose. They do not want barack to succeed. It is like the 60's all over again. Some people do not the president and his agendas just because the president is African American and this factor will cause the president to serve only on term. It is not because he is doing bad, Washington racism and partisan is the fact. We already starting to see that example Massachussetts senate eletion.

    February 3, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  24. T'SAH from Virginia

    I just heard on the news that we have enough coal to support us for the next 1,000 years!!! Find a way to CLEAN it and USE it...Case and POINT!!

    We act like we're from the third world which lately, is NOT so much the third world anymore. If we keep up our "behind the times" methods, we would become the Fourth World!!!

    February 3, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  25. britello-fl

    123.....ok lets here from the Pary of NO.........................

    February 3, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
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