US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared Sunday that 'coal is our future,' affirming skeptics' fears that, despite the rhetoric heralded in President Obama's climate policy speech last week, the US will continue to kow-tow to the interests of Big Coal.
The Energy Chief's statement appeared to backpedal on comments made by the president regarding "new rules to cut carbon emissions from US power plants and support renewable energy."
Despite these claims, Obama "expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to remain a significant contributor for some time," Moniz told Reuters Sunday while attending a nuclear security conference in Vienna, Austria.
The way the U.S. administration is "looking at it is: what does it take for us to do to make coal part of a low carbon future," he said, adding this would include higher efficiency plants and new ways of utilizing coal.
It is "all about having, in fact, coal as part of that future," Moniz said. "I don't believe it is a 'war on coal'."
Moniz was responding directly to Big Coal interests who, following the President's speech, denounced his climate plan. Senator Joe Manchin (D- W. Va) responded to the speech by claiming that the Obama had "declared a war on coal."
However, environmentalists watching the speech anticipated little change in the administration's energy policy, despite the "flowery rhetoric."
"A sensible climate plan," said Damon Moglen, climate and energy program director of Friends of the Earth, "would include a renunciation of the president’s 'all of the above' energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power."
"In order to address climate change," he continued, "the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century."
Rather than moving away from fossil fuels, the Obama administration keeps "pinning its hopes [...] on developing new technologies to make coal cleaner," writes DeSmogBlog's Sharon Kelly.
"The plan in rough form, involves collecting carbon dioxide emitted by power plants and burying it, forever, underground," she adds. "If that sounds like a heck of a challenge, that’s because it is."
During his speech, Obama resurrected the myth of 'clean coal' and Moniz echoed the falsehood of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) when he announced an $8 billion loan guarantee program for projects to develop new "clean" technologies.
Despite the numerous and well-documented renunciations of CCS, Moniz—"whose support of the coal industry and faith in sequestration has been longstanding," writes Kelly—remains dangerously undaunted.
Mr. Moniz will be in a uniquely influential position when it comes to confronting these problems. President Obama announced that he would rely on executive agencies instead of Congress, so Mr. Moniz's Energy Department will play a crucial role in determining precisely how Obama’s strategy is administered.