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Upton unveils new energy bill and WMU funding

Aug. 7, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Speaking at a Western Michigan University geological research facility Aug. 6, Michigan Congressman Fred Upton unveiled a piece of bipartisan energy legislation he is sponsoring that will set up a $1 billion federal grant program to help develop carbon capture and storage technology that WMU researchers are already actively pursuing.

Upton, top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, was joined by WMU President John M. Dunn, as he unveiled breakthrough legislation aimed at reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and injecting underground the carbon dioxide emitted from electricity generation plants and industrial emitters that use fossil fuels. Upton teamed with his Democratic counterpart on the Energy Subcommittee, Chairman Rick Boucher of Virginia, to author the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act, H.R. 6258, which establishes a $1 billion grant program derived from fees on the generation of electricity from coal, oil and natural gas. He said the bill already is being prepared for consideration by the House this fall.

Upton also announced that he was successful in securing $650,000 for WMU's Geological Carbon Sequestration Research and Education Program in the House Energy and Water Development spending bill that is pending consideration. The $650,000 will help the University partner with Michigan industry, energy utility companies and local governments to examine the potential for carbon sequestration in deep Michigan geological formations.

"Energy prices drive our economy--as the price of gasoline has skyrocketed due, in part, to policies that limit access to American energy resources, it is critical that electricity rates do not follow suit," Upton said. "We must take advantage of our nation's vast coal reserves that have the promise to produce clean and affordable power for generations. In our quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment, we must promote exciting new clean coal technologies that will not only keep costs down for consumers, but also foster new jobs and a strong economy. As we have seen at Western Michigan University, these technologies exhibit great promise, and in encouraging advancements in carbon capture, we'll be able to responsibly fortify our nation's energy supply with American-made energy and protect the pocketbooks of consumers."

Upton's bipartisan legislation makes funds available for state-of-the-art research programs like the research being conducted by Western Michigan University's Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, the site of Upton's Aug. 6 announcement and commonly referred to as the WMU Core Lab. Academic research being conducted at WMU and throughout the nation promises to accelerate the commercial development and demonstration of carbon capture and storage technologies. Accelerating the arrival of affordable and reliable CO2 capture and storage technologies will cut greenhouse gases, all the while keeping electricity rates affordable.

"Keeping energy affordable and protecting the environment are the twin challenges of the 21st century," said WMU's President Dunn. "This University has taken both challenges to heart, and our researchers have been working tirelessly on both fronts. Carbon sequestration, which we've been actively testing, is the kind of technology that holds great promise for the future. I'm grateful to Congressman Upton for recognizing the potential and joining with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to propose funding that will speed development of this technology and make it a viable part of our national energy policy."

While some commercial CCS projects are in operation, they are small in scale and have the worthy purpose of enhancing oil recovery. Further research, development and demonstration are necessary for the permanent storage underground of large quantities of carbon dioxide in a variety of storage media in widely dispersed locations around the nation. The new fund created by the bipartisan bill will finance research on various methods of capturing CO2 from the combustion process and establishing the reliability of storage of the CO2 in multiple storage sites. Carbon conversion technology also exhibits promise with the ability to convert CO2 into an environmentally harmless form.

"We currently have state-of-the-art research being conducted right here in our own backyard at Western Michigan that has the potential to revolutionize the cutting of greenhouse gases," Upton said. "We are a nation that consists of the world's best and brightest minds, and with a greater emphasis on new technologies and harnessing American ingenuity, rather than arbitrary mandates, we can go to great lengths to address our expanding power needs in an environmentally and economically sensitive manner. Developing this technology here in Southwest Michigan will also provide a much needed boost to our local economy."

The bipartisan legislation enjoys broad support and has been endorsed by the United Mine Workers of America, the National Mining Association, American Electric Power, the AFL-CIO, Duke Energy, Dominion Power, Southern Company, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Progress Energy and the Salt River Project.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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