The major climate bill introduced last week by two key liberal senators would not only impose carbon fees on major energy sources and oil refiners, it would also effectively end President Barack Obama's research and development into "clean coal."
The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development would be eliminated under the Sustainable Energy Act introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
The office got about $560 million for its work in 2012 and Obama proposed putting $421 million toward its programs this fiscal year.
The Obama administration did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation, which isn't expected to pass Congress. Boxer has vowed to push the legislation through her committee this coming spring, however, in a move intended to force a renewed debate on climate change.
The elimination of the office was proposed by Sanders last year in the End Polluter Welfare Act bill, said his spokesman Mike Briggs. That bill would have terminated direct spending and tax provisions for fossil fuels. It did not advance beyond the introduction stage.
"The fossil fuel industry should be developing cleaner technologies to cut pollution, but this mature and profitable industry does not need government assistance," Briggs said.
In his last budget submission to Congress in early 2012, Obama said the Energy Department fossil fuel office "supports high-priority, high-risk research that will improve the nation's ability to use fossil energy resources cleanly, affordably, and efficiently."
The office was projected to spend $334 million last year on research into carbon capture, carbon storage, advanced coal-fired power generation, and other research and development.
The office is also directed to support the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency programs to reduce environmental and health impacts from hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.
Boxer and Sanders would also eliminate spending in other programs and departments that goes to fossil fuel development and power generation. No funds for oil, coal or natural gas projects could be spent by the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy grants program, the Agriculture Department's Rural Utility Service or the Transportation Department's Federal Railroad Administration under their proposal.
Similar prohibitions would be imposed on U.S. contributions to the World Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank.
The bill was introduced with the Climate Protection Act by Sanders and Boxer, which would impose a $20 per ton fee on carbon content on coal, rising 5.6 percent a year for a decade. It would also eliminate tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies.
Boxer and Sanders said the bills would force cuts in domestic carbon emissions of 20 percent by 2025 over 2005 levels and bring in $300 billion for deficit reduction over 10 years, while returning 60 percent of proceeds back to consumers to offset higher energy prices.