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Sens. Whitehouse and Manchin Discuss Common Ground on Energy and Climate Policy

As delivered on the Senate floor

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I have come here every week now for 72 consecutive weeks that the Senate has been in session to urge colleagues to wake up to the growing threat of climate change. Today I have the pleasure and honor of being joined by my friend and colleague Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from West Virginia and I be allowed to engage in a colloquy for the time we have been allotted.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Senator Manchin and I come from very different parts of the country. We are the Ocean State, he is the Mountain State. We both came here today to say that climate change is real, that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, are causing dramatic changes to the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, and to seek responsible solutions that will ensure reliable, sustainable energy for the United States and protect our local communities and economies from the worst effects of a changing climate, recognizing, as we must, that fossil fuels will be part of America's fuel mix for decades.

The recent National Climate Assessment showed many effects of climate change are already being seen across the United States. In my home State of Rhode Island, we have Narragansett Bay, more than 3 degrees warmer in the winter than it was 50 years ago. Measurements at the Newport tide gauge show that as the seawater warms and expands, the sea level is up almost 10 inches against our shores since the 1930s.

Extreme weather depends a lot on natural variability, but climate change increases the odds that heat waves and heavy rain bursts will occur. As the climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe. Here on this chart we see that in the northeast, up here, the area which includes both Rhode Island and West Virginia, between 1958 and 2010, the amount of rain coming in those big downpours has gone up by 70 percent.

Let's remember how climate change affects the economy and jobs. For example, fishermen in Rhode Island have seen their winter flounder catch from Narragansett Bay nearly disappear in the recent decades as the bay has warmed. These are not distant climate model projections, this is now. This is happening to Rhode Island.

The people of West Virginia have Senator Manchin fighting for them every day in Washington. I know he believes that we need to find economically responsible answers to environmental problems. I am proud to stand with him today as his friend and colleague.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from West Virginia.

Mr. MANCHIN. I thank the Chair.

I am pleased to join my friend Senator Whitehouse from the great State of Rhode Island to talk about this important subject. In the past, we may not always have agreed on how to approach this problem, but at least we have come together to work on a solution together. That is very important. That is a rare thing in Washington, as the Presiding Officer knows. We are determined to see if we can find common ground to move forward.

As the Senator suggested, the way we produce and consume energy in our States is quite different. I am the Mountain State, he is the Ocean State. Nonetheless, we both agree we need to strike a balance between the economy and the environment. One cannot go it alone. It takes a balance, if you will, in about anything we do in life, one that acknowledges the reality of the climate change, while also understanding that fossil fuels, more specifically coal that we produce so much of in our State, is such a part of our economy, is a vital part of our energy mix for decades to come. That is by the Department of Energy, the EAI's own claim.

There is no doubt that 7 billion people have impacted our world's climate. Those who deny that I believe are wrong. A lot of them are my friends. I believe we have had an impact and we have a responsibility. But we need to know what is going on and the facts we are dealing with in the world today.

There are more than 8 billion tons of coal consumed around the world each year. This gives an outline of where most of that coal is consumed. Currently China burns more than 4 billion tons per year. They are not stopping or letting up. If anything, they are increasing their consumption and building more coal-fired plants as we speak, while the United States and Europe each burn less than 1 billion tons. So the United States of America, you could say, uses less than one-eighth of the coal consumed annually in the world. If we stopped burning every kind of coal, would that really clean up the climate? But if we find ways to do it better, can we help the rest of the world clean up the climate? That is what we are here to talk about.

There is a broad agreement in the scientific community that carbon emissions and other human contributions are causing substantial changes to the Earth's climate. According to the West Virginia State Climatologist's Office, five of the six wettest years have occurred since 1989; four have occurred since 1990.

Just as I do not deny the existence of climate change, my friend Senator Whitehouse does not deny that eliminating coal from the energy mix would hurt the reliability of our grid. He knows that you cannot do it. We have got to work together to keep the reliability in the system, which is so vital to people all over this country.

Without coal, the northeast United States would have suffered severe and enduring power outages during last winter's polar vortex. If our reliability had failed during the polar vortex we came through this past year, there is no question people would have died--no question at all.

Importantly, during that period of time, coal provided 92 percent of the increase in energy needed to survive that disaster.

Coal was able to go online to back up the grid. Ninety-two percent of it was driven by coal because it is dependable, reliable, and affordable.

This chart shows basically the portion of increase in U.S. electricity generation by fuel, January-February 2014, the times we needed it most to keep the grid systems up and running. You can see coal--92 percent--and natural gas fell because of distribution problems we had. It will increase, it will get better as distribution and infrastructure is built.

Oil, nuclear, hydro, renewable--you can see they weren't able to pick up the demand that was needed or the load that was needed to keep the system moving.

Nick Akins is the CEO of American Electric Power. He said this about the polar vortex: ''This country did not just dodge a bullet--it dodged a cannon ball''

We need to address climate change, but we need to do it while maintaining the reliability of our electricity system. Senator Whitehouse and I both realize that coal will remain a vital part of our Nation's general portfolio for the foreseeable future.

According to the President's own Energy Information Administration--the EIA--coal generated about 40 percent of all U.S. electricity in 2011. In 2040 coal will still generate more than 30 percent of the domestic electricity that is needed.

This chart basically shows where we are going in the foreseeable future. This is 2040. By 2040 natural gas will be at 35 percent, and coal will still be at 32 percent--both, it can be said, out of fossil, so you have 67 percent. Renewals increase to 16 percent. Nuclear is going down to 16 percent, and I believe we have to reengage our efforts there. I really do. So coal will assume the dominant world markets for the foreseeable future.

According to EIA, coal provided 69 percent of China's energy consumption in 2011. This chart gives a little bit of an idea of where we are. China used four times the amount of coal used in the United States that year. Coal supplied 41 percent of India's total energy consumption. During that period of time, India used roughly the same amount of coal as we did in the United States. By 2040 China will produce 62 percent of its electricity from coal, while India will produce 56 percent. During the next few years, some 1,200 new coal plants are going to be built across 59 countries; 363 are going to be built in China and 455 in India alone.

It is unbelievable when you look at more than 8 billion tons of coal that are consumed around the world each year. China currently burns more than 4 billion tons per year, while the United States and Europe burn less than 1 billion tons. Use in these countries and in other parts of the world is projected to grow dramatically for decades to come.

The United States has already been a leader in proving to the world that we can produce coal cleaner today. Traditional pollutants--sulfur, mercury, nitrogen, and particulates--have been cut 80 percent in the last several years. What is less known is that technologies are being developed--and some already exist--that dramatically lower coal plant carbon emissions.

With smarter investments from the public and private sectors, we will not only finish the first generation of carbon capture, storage, and utilization plants but also develop the second generation of these technologies. When that happens in the not so distant future, we will lead the world toward utilization of fossil fuels in a way that produces negligible or zero harmful emissions.

With the right policies and the right coordination between the public and private sectors, we can lead by example and show the world that we can burn fossil fuels cleaner than ever. Most importantly, we can do all of this while protecting consumers, creating jobs, and growing our economy.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I agree with my friend from West Virginia that we must address climate change in a way that protects jobs in all sectors and ensures grid stability.

Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are indeed going to be an important part of America's energy mix for decades. So we need to invest, as Senator Manchin has suggested, in reducing the carbon pollution we generate from these sources.

We also need to adapt our power infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change. Extreme weather has become the main cause of blackouts in the United States.

The President's Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Energy counted 679 widespread outages between 2003 and 2012 due to severe weather. Fifty-eight percent of power outages since 2002 and 87 percent of outages affecting 50,000 or more customers were caused by severe weather such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, and blizzards. The average annual cost of power outages caused by severe weather is between $18 billion and $33 billion per year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration compiled data that is plotted on this chart showing that weather-related power outages are already on the rise since just the early nineties.

Addressing climate change is also important to grid stability.

We also should expand and modernize our electric grid. A smarter grid will make it easier to respond to and recover from extreme weather events, will boost efficiency within the system, will help lower utility bills, and will bring more renewable energy online.

In both our States, Senator Manchin and I realize it is in America's interest to be leaders in the research, development, and deployment of energy efficiency tools; in cleaner fossil fuel research; and in renewable energy technologies--particularly ones we can export. I know Senator Manchin has some of these technologies being rolled out in his State.

Mr. MANCHIN. When I was Governor of West Virginia, we set and have now achieved an alternative where we are going to reduce our carbon footprint by 25 percent by using coal in a cleaner fashion and also some of the other things we do, which I will explain. Not only did we do it, we did it 10 years earlier than we had targeted. In 2013, 4.1 percent of West Virginia's energy already came from hydroelectric and wind energy. Mount Storm Wind Farm--so many people don't know what we have done in our little State because we are all in; we want to do it all, and we are trying everything we have--is the second largest wind farm east of the Mississippi, 17 miles across the beautiful landscape.

I also agree with Senator Whitehouse on the importance of energy efficiency. With our friend Senator Hoeven of North Dakota, I have introduced the All-Of-The-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act, legislation that would improve the energy efficiency of all Federal buildings and set an example for the private sector.

This legislation takes a commonsense, all-of-the-above approach to the issue of Federal energy efficiency. I believe that by encouraging the use of innovative technologies and practices, instituting reasonable goals, and allowing building managers flexibility, we can achieve better environmental stewardship in a cost-effective manner.

As Governors, Senator Hoeven--a Republican from North Dakota--and I relied on common sense to guide our State policies, and this bill applies that much needed common sense to Federal policies. We should be using all of our abundant resources, including coal, to power our Nation in the most efficient way possible. Our bill accomplishes this goal and proves the Federal Government can lead the way in using fossil fuels to achieve greater energy efficiency in a much cleaner fashion.

While efficiency and renewables are important, let me say again that it is most important to reduce emissions from coal plants while keeping them running well into the future. Advances in coal-use technologies will continue to develop with help from the public sector.

Enhanced oil recovery is already developing into a valuable tool for augmenting domestic oil production. We need Federal investments for technology such as EOR.

Research is ongoing for the use of coal and CO2 for a multitude of new energy and consumer products, including fertilizers, liquid fuels, and plastic materials.

I just had a gentleman come to my office who basically makes carbon out of coal which cleanses the water we drink.

So there are so many things. Senator Whitehouse is right. There are so many things that we are using, and we can do a lot more.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Efficiency is something we take seriously in Rhode Island as well.

In 2013 the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Rhode Island as the sixth most energy efficient State in the country. The Energy Information Administration in 2011 ranked Rhode Island the lowest in energy consumption--which, as the Presiding Officer from the small State of Delaware can understand, we have a bit of an unfair advantage--but we were also the sixth lowest in total energy costs per capita. We do our part to save energy, avoid emissions, lower costs, and reduce the demand and stress on the electric grid.

Rhode Island and eight other States participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative--we call it ''Reggi''--which caps carbon emissions and sells permits to emit greenhouse gases to powerplants. One of the ways Rhode Island has been able to drive down our energy consumption and our utility bills is by investing the money generated through RGGI into energy efficiency. Rhode Island invests over 91 percent of its RGGI proceeds in energy efficiency projects and improvements, helping residents save money on their utility bills and making small businesses more competitive.

Rhode Island is also poised to gain scores of jobs from the development of offshore wind. I think we have the advantage on West Virginia in offshore wind. Our private developer of offshore wind, Deepwater Wind, has received its first major environmental permit to begin deployment in the Block Island wind farm area.

The price of wind energy has decreased over 90 percent since the early 1980s and is now competitive in the energy markets. I am working to make wind energy more a part of our energy portfolio.

At the Federal level, our energy policy must use the best science available to improve the way we use fossil fuels, and our Tax Code should help address climate change while leveling the playing field for various energy sources.

I believe carbon-driven climate change hurts our economy, damages our infrastructure, and harms public health. Yet those costs are not factored into the cost of fossil fuels. That means the cost of the pollution has been borne by the public. I believe we should adopt a carbon fee to correct this market failure and return all its revenue to the American people--what Republican supporters of a carbon fee call revenue neutral.

On a smaller scale, Congress can also extend the renewable energy tax credits and other measures that are supported by Members on both sides of the aisle, helping renewable energy in West Virginia and a bipartisan array of States.

Mr. MANCHIN. The Senator and I disagree on a few things, but I adamantly disagree with my dear friend Senator Whitehouse regarding the wisdom of a carbon fee or so-called carbon tax. But I do agree that we can use the Tax Code and other Federal tax incentives to help clean up fossil fuels. That is why we are here together to find a pathway.

First, the DOE must approve $8 billion in loan guarantees for advanced fossil fuel projects that they have had available since 2005. None of it has been invested to try to help use the fuel that we depend on--coal--in a much better, cleaner fashion. Also, I found out that we also have $3.2 billion from the stimulus money to be used for shovel-ready coal projects that is still sitting and hasn't been invested. So there is a lot we can do without appropriating any new money, just using the money that is there for the purpose it was intended.

New tax incentives could be employed to incentivize providers to update sub-critical plants to the super- and ultra-super-critical configurations that pave the way for CCS.

Finally, we need to incentivize the second generation of CCS technology, the one that holds the future for promise of coal use with negligible emissions.

What are we talking about? Carbon capture sequestration, just being used for that purpose, if you don't have a secondary source to where you can put it and sell it for enhanced oil recovery, as we call it--the technology that we could use in the shale that maybe can enhance the gas from the shale, the Utica and Marcellus that we have in West Virginia--so much could have been done that we haven't done. Maybe we could solidify the carbon and use it as a spent fuel. These are things we need to get to, and this money lying right now in the Department of Energy for almost 10 years needs to be invested.

With the help of Senator Whitehouse, I can only think that we can move forward and find a solution.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I agree with the distinguished Senator from West Virginia that the Department of Energy's advanced fossil projects loan guarantee program has not yet lived up to, at this time, its potential.

I will work with him to push the administration to accelerate its use.

I wish to close my share of this colloquy by noting something very basic; that is, that America has long stood before the world as an exceptional country and deservedly so. America proved the case for popular sovereignty with no need of kings or crowns. America took our balanced market capitalism and rose to international economic dominance. America has long been the vanguard of civil and human rights for our people and around the globe. When American military power must be used, we don't conquer and rule. We come home. This exceptional nature confers upon us a responsibility to lead, to be an example, to be, as President Reagan said, ''a shining city on a hill.''

Our generation will be judged by whether we were responsible about climate change, whether we listened, and whether we led.

Senator Manchin and I are both committed to the idea that American innovation can create the clean energy technologies of the future, so that when it comes to addressing the biggest problems facing our world, the United States should be out front, and we are committed to working together to find responsible solutions to the climate crisis.

We also realize we have different perspectives on what those solutions should look like. I live in a State that is harmed by carbon pollution, and Senator Manchin is from a State that sees economic benefit from coal. We believe we could both learn more about those different perspectives. So I am committing to travel with Senator Manchin to West Virginia to see the coal plants that power many parts of our country and meet the people there working to curb pollution and improve efficiency, and I invite Senator Manchin to Rhode Island to see how climate change is taking its toll on our shorelines and marine industries.

America is still a beacon to the world because ultimately we have the ability to work through disagreements to common ground on a shared platform of fact. With the commitment of serious leaders such as Senator Manchin, I am confident we can move forward to an energy future that preserves the economy and quality of life in West Virginia, in Rhode Island, and for all Americans.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Manchin have such time as he needs to conclude his colloquy.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator. Again, I say to my good friend Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island, I look forward to coming to his beautiful State of Rhode Island and seeing all of what they are doing and the efficiencies they have and technology they are incorporating. I also look forward to showing him my State, the beautiful State of West Virginia, and its great people.

We have both visited each other's States before, so we know how good our States are. It is going to be great to revisit.

I thank the Senator also for joining me on the floor as we continue to have this extremely important dialogue. If Senator Whitehouse and I can start looking for a pathway, I am sure friends from both sides of the aisle can join us. That is what we are trying to have happen.

I agree with Senator Whitehouse, the United States of America has long stood before the world as an exceptional country that people look up to. We have reigned as the dominant world power and have played the role of the world's leader for more than 200 years.

Coal use is expanding across the globe, and we need to face that reality--and we must take our position as the world leader and broker solutions, knowing the rest of the world is going to use this product more than ever before. So finding a balance of the environment between our concerns and our economic prosperity is going to happen. We should be that leader also.

The solution for the United States is to develop a technology that will allow us to use the fuels we need cleanly and to export that technology to the world.

Yes, West Virginia and Rhode Island are indeed different in many ways, but most importantly the Senator and I both know they are both part of this great country, and that is what makes America great. We can deliberate and challenge each other's positions on any one issue--and we sure have had our share of dogged debates on the issues of climate change and energy issues--but when it comes to deciding what is best for our future generations and our beautiful Earth, there is always room for reasonable compromise and a way forward.

So as we continue to work diligently in the Senate, I also look forward to visiting again with him, and we will make that happen sooner than later.

Once again, I thank Senator Whitehouse for coming to the table to establish a truly commonsense, all-of-the-above energy policy that acknowledges the vital role coal must play moving forward.

This energy strategy will also help protect good-paying jobs, boost our economy nationwide and around the world, and improve the quality of life of all living things.

We are going to fix this together, not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans, as the world leaders we always have been. We have been looking to find the balance, and we will find the balance and show not only America but the world that we can look past our differences to better this world. I look forward so much to that. We both have looked at it from this standpoint: We both agree we need to work together and basically agree we have a responsibility in this world and this country to be a leader again in finding a pathway to using the energy the good Lord gave us and find the best balance we can with the economy and environment, cleaning up the environment for which we are responsible.

I thank my good friend, and I yield the floor.