As much attention as domestic climate and energy policy are given, few policymakers seem willing to grapple with global energy trends and reality. Senator Joe Manchin is not one of them. As the senator has repeatedly pointed out, the energy transition and the move away from fossil fuels simply isn’t happening in much of the world.
In fact, with economic recovery picking up pace globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that electricity demand is coming roaring back, expected to jump 5% this year and 4% next, and demand for fossil fuels is surging with it. Coal – still the world’s leading fuel for electricity generation – is seeing its demand grow again as well. After declining by 4.6% in 2020, coal generation is projected to increase by almost 5% in 2021 to exceed pre-pandemic levels. The IEA predicts coal demand could set an all-time high in 2022.
The IEA is bringing irrefutable data to the story Senator Manchin has been telling. So it was of particular interest when IEA executive director Fatih Birol posted a photo last week of himself with Senator Manchin on the senator’s boat, captioned “…fascinating evening discussing U.S. domestic energy priorities & the role [the U.S.] can play in global clean energy transitions.”
It’s not hard to imagine that a good bit of that conversation focused on U.S. leadership in developing and deploying carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology. If there’s one topic we can be sure these two leaders agree on, it’s CCUS and its importance to tackling the global emissions challenge.
In fact, it’s harder to find a bigger backer for U.S. leadership on CCUS than Senator Manchin, who recently took Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to his home state of West Virginia to showcase the promise and opportunity provided by U.S. leadership on advanced fossil fuel technologies. As Senator Manchin has said time and again, you can innovate your way to a cleaner climate, but you cannot eliminate your way. In other words, simply phasing out fossil fuels here will do little to address the bigger global challenge. He’s abundantly aware of coal’s staying power overseas, the youth of Asia’s coal fleet and the hundreds of new coal plants already under construction or in the pipeline.
For his part, Director Birol has testified multiple times in front of Senator Manchin’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the critical importance of CCUS. In fact, in 2019 the director called CCUS the “most vital” technology to reducing emissions. In 2020, he testified that if he had to pick one emissions reduction technology to bring to maturity and gain market share, it would be CCUS. And this February, he testified that, “for me, the critical – perhaps the most critical [technology needed to reduce emissions] – is carbon capture utilization and storage. Extremely important one looking at the current energy infrastructure we have around the world.”
What Director Birol and Senator Manchin both recognize – even if environmental groups and their champions in Congress do not – is that the world lacks the replicable technology solutions it needs to reach net-zero emissions. And producing those solutions requires recognizing the importance of fossil fuels to the global energy system.
No country has the capacity for innovation or the capability to muster the needed resources to bring these essential technologies to maturity like the United States. Director Birol has pleaded for increased U.S. leadership. Here’s hoping Senator Manchin is charting a course to deliver it.
- On July 21, 2021