* Coal industry critical of Obama's climate change plan
* But Obama expects coal to remain "significant contributor"
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA, June 30 The U.S. government is not
waging a "war on coal" but rather expects it to still play a
significant role, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on
Sunday, rejecting criticism of President Barack Obama's climate
Obama tried last week to revive his stalled climate change
agenda, promising new rules to cut carbon emissions from U.S.
power plants and other domestic actions including support for
The long-awaited plan drew criticism from the coal industry,
which would be hit hard by carbon limits, and Republicans, who
accused the Democratic president of advancing policies that harm
the economy and kill jobs. Environmentalists largely cheered the
proposals, though some said the moves did not go far enough.
Obama "expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to
remain a significant contributor for some time," Moniz told
Reuters in Vienna, where he was to attend a nuclear security
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 utilising 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'."
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, the No.
2 U.S. coal mining state after Wyoming, said last week that
Obama had "declared a war on coal," and the industry said the
rules threatened its viability.
Moniz acknowledged there could be winners and losers but
that economic models belie "the statement that there are huge
economic impacts" from controlling greenhouse gases.
"Quite the contrary. We expect that this is going to be
positive for the economy," he said.
Obama said he had directed the Environmental Protection
Agency to craft new emissions rules for thousands of power
plants, the bulk of which burn coal and which account for
roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
With Congress unlikely to pass climate legislation, Obama
said his administration would set rules using executive powers.
Moniz said he was optimistic that the United States would
meet its goal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by roughly
17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. "We're pretty close to the
track right now. We're halfway there," he said.
An $8 billion loan guarantee programme for projects to
develop new technologies that help cut emissions of fossil fuels
would include carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) as
"one of a number of options," he said.
"It will also include some advanced technologies for using
coal very different from today's technologies that will enable
much less expensive carbon capture in future," Moniz said.
CCS is a relatively new, expensive and unproven technology
that captures carbon dioxide and buries it.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)