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Coal-to-Liquid a Top Priority for Boucher

November 18, 2006 08:36 pm

Coal-to-liquid a top priority for Boucher
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher headed home to Abingdon Friday after the U.S. House was restructured Thursday, strongly supporting the newly elected House
Majority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

But, in a wide ranging interview, he was not optimistic that President Bush would extend a bipartisan welcome to the new Democrat-controlled

“I hope the President will respond,” Boucher said. “But his history of working with the Congress is not encouraging. He has shown no interest in the past” of flexibility with Democrats, he said.

Key House committees such as Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence will work toward formulating a strategy for Iraq, he said, and Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi will direct a House plan for a solution.

Boucher, a long-time friend of Steny Hoyer, praised the new majority leader, elected by the Democratic caucus in secret voting Thursday. Earlier Thursday, Pelosi had thrown her support to Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a strong ally in the House. Hoyer, who had lobbied hard for the No. 2
position, won by a vote of 149-86, stirring speculation of a Democratic split among the leadership.

Boucher said Hoyer “has worked hard, has been highly effective throughout his entire career, and is a consensus builder. He had paid his dues.”

Hoyer, a 25-year House veteran, has “helped position us in line with the vast majority,” Boucher added.

Looking to the new session in January, Boucher said he was in a “strong position” to pass his coal-to-liquid bill, an issue of major interest across the coalfields of southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia.

Boucher is ranking member of two powerful House committees, Energy and Environmental Initiatives, and the Committee on the Judiciary. He also is the leading House expert on the Internet as a member of the Internet and Technologies Initiatives Committee. (Formal approval as chairman for all House committees, as well as Pelosi’s Speaker position, will come after the new session convenes in January.)

He said he plans on pushing the development of coal-to-liquid, a complex process which enables the production of transportation fuels from coal technology.

It’s a two-step process, he said.

First, he said a bill must be passed to provide price guarantees for investors. Guarantees, he explained, are necessary because the coal-to-liquid process is commercially feasible when the price for crude oil is at $40 per barrel or higher. Boucher’s bill would lower that figure to the $30 range, creating incentives for investments in coal to liquids facilities.

In September, he introduced legislation that would establish price guarantees. He expects approval during the new session of Congress. Without the price guarantees, he said any coal-to-liquid hopes would be doomed.

Secondly, he said the process must be attractive to major coal companies. He said he is working with several major southwest Virginia coal companies,
which – as big consumers of diesel – would benefit from a coal-to-liquid conversion plant. Commercial marketing could be developed during a
scaling-up production process after a successful diesel conversion, he said.

He said the technology would make commercial energy feasible. Two major supporters of the process potential are the U.S. Air Force and JetBlue,
two “built-in customers,” Boucher pointed out.

There are no such plants in the U.S., and Boucher said there are no reasonable ways to forecast when a plant may be considered. He pointed
out, however, that South Africa has a number of the plants. The idea was first used by Germany in the early beginnings of World War II.

Article courtesy of Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition




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