U.S. Energy Sec. Ernest Moniz: Fossil fuels will remain important to America

casper star tribune-01Casper Star-Tribune | June 13, 2016 | Benjamin Storrow

Those comments, delivered at the annual gathering of the Western Governors’ Association at Snow King Resort Hotel, comes against the backdrop of declining U.S. coal production. American coal output hit its lowest quarterly total since 1981 in the first quarter of this year, according to a government report released last week.

Few predicted the pace of coal’s decline, Moniz said, noting the role low natural gas prices have played in the transformation of the country’s energy sector. The Energy Secretary said the recently signed Paris climate agreement, which seeks to reverse a rise in global temperatures, illustrates the administration’s attempts to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

Those efforts present the U.S. with a series of challenges and opportunities, Moniz said. The administration nevertheless remains committed to carbon capture and sequestration, he said.

“Fossil fuel use, nuclear, along with renewables and efficiency, will all remain prominent in our portfolio,” Moniz told the 10 assembled governors.

The comments do not represent a shift in the Obama administration’s approach to carbon sequestration research. Administration officials have long pointed to their support for sequestration funding in response to critics who say the White House is trying to drive a shift away from coal. Congress has appropriated $7 billion for clean coal research since fiscal year 2008.

That argument has long drawn skepticism from coal supporters, who contend the administration has showered renewables with more money than fossil fuels. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, in a nod to those concerns, asked Moniz during a brief question and answer session if the administration has funding quotas for various energy sources.

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