Obama admin: We are not waging a "war on coal," and here's $8 billion to prove it

President Obama revealed his big “climate change action plan” (to be accomplished via pure executive authority) last week, and the reaction from both sides has been swift and fierce. Various environmentalists groups and green interests immediately hailed the plan as a win in the battle against global warming, and one group aptly cautioned their supporters against trying to make supporting economic arguments — the precise tack that Republicans, fossil fuel supporters, and energy-rich states (not to mention unions!) are emphasizing. After the immediate barrage of criticism, the Obama administration made an announcement yesterday with which they’re looking to quell some of the anger and appease both sides — and it is a mouthful: “The Energy Department releases draft advanced fossil energy solicitation to support reductions in greenhouse gas solutions.”

Washington, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy announced today a draft loan guarantee solicitation for innovative and advanced fossil energy projects and facilities that substantially reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. The Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation, authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program, does just that. The draft solicitation will be open for comments from industry, stakeholders, and the public until early September.

The solicitation will support new or significantly improved advanced fossil energy projects and facilities – such as advanced resource development, carbon capture, low-carbon power systems, and efficiency improvements – that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gas pollution. The Energy Department will make available up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority through this solicitation.

“America needs an all-of-the-above approach to develop homegrown energy and steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, so we can protect our kids’ health and begin to slow the effects of climate change. These investments will play a critical role in accelerating the introduction of low-carbon fossil fuel technologies into the marketplace and reduce greenhouse gas pollution,” said Secretary Moniz. “Fossil fuels currently provide more than 80 percent of our energy, and adopting technologies to use them cleanly and more efficiently is critical to our all- of-the-above approach.”

In a nutshell: Lest they appear too biased with their subsidy-giveaways and regulatory crackdowns, the administration will be “investing” in trying to develop cleaner versions and production of coal, oil, and natural gas — except that this ‘new’ venture is actually an expansion on an earlier plan focusing on ‘clean coal’ that didn’t take off. Via Bloomberg:

The reshaped plan, announced today by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, is part of President Barack Obama’s strategy to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. …

“These investments will play a critical role in accelerating the introduction of low-carbon fossil fuel technologies into the marketplace and reduce greenhouse gas pollution,” Moniz said in a statement.

The Energy Department hasn’t touched its $8 billion in loan guarantee authority that Congress provided in a 2005 energy law for advanced fossil-energy projects. A 2008 solicitation for companies’ bids focused solely on carbon capture projects at coal plants.

Some environmentalist groups have been pretty straightforward about the fact that, yeah, they do think a “war on coal” is exactly what’s necessary to achieve their renewable ambitions, but the Obama administration is vociferously denying it and working pretty hard to blunt the criticisms. That’s the theoretical beauty of their ostensible “all of the above” strategy — it allows them to have their cake and eat it, too, except that the reality isn’t really playing out that way.