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Spending more for cleaner coal.

Spending more for cleaner coal

President Reagan, following throughon a commitment to cut back power-plant emissions that end up in Canada as acid rain, last week announced that he will ask Congress to approve spending $2.5 billion over the next five years for the clean-coal technology program, to be administered by the Department of Energy (DOE). The announcement comes just weeks before a scheduled meeting between Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Canadian officials had complained earlier this year that the Reagan administration was not living up to the terms of a year-old agreement between the United States and Canada, which calls for a $5 billion program to test and demonstrate new technologies for burning coal more cleanly (SN: 1/18/86, p.37).

The Reagan administration's proposalmarks a sharp increase in funding for clean-coal technology projects. DOE's budget proposal for fiscal year 1988 originally called for an increase of only $350 million over five years (SN: 1/10/87, p.21). About $400 million has already been appropriated and nine demonstration projects selected (SN: 3/1/86, p.132). For each selected project under both the old and new proposals, industry must invest at least as much money as the federal government provides.

Both the DOE and utilities representedby the Edison Electric Institute, based in Washington, D.C., are confident that industry can come up with its share of funding for clean-coal technology projects. A recent DOE call for ideas elicited 139 suggestions for projects, with total cost estimates adding up to more than $5 billion. In the nine projects selected so far, industry is providing almost two-thirds of the funding.

A Canadian assessment of the U.S.clean-coal technology program, however, suggests that most of the selected projects don't meet the criteria specified in last year's agreement. The report contends that to date, U.S. initiatives do very little to reduce air pollution flowing toward Canada. Although DOE has argued that all nine selected projects meet at least some of the criteria, the department is now establishing an advisory committee, including a Canadian government representative, to guide future selections by commenting on which technologies should be demonstrated.

Congress now faces a difficult choice. Itcan go ahead with legislation that places strict limits on air-pollutant emissions as a way of controlling acid rain, or it can increase funding for the clean-coal technology program in the hope of eventually achieving a similar result.
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Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 28, 1987
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