WVU coal-to-liquids cooperative funded

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April 19, 2006 –

International partnership could speed energy work at home

Morgantown, W.Va. – Washington, D.C – A coal-to-liquids cooperative effort between the United States and China will be fueled by an international team of experts at West Virginia University (WVU), U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced Wednesday.

“China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Its energy appetite is immense. The Chinese recognize that foreign oil won’t be able to handle that nation’s king-size energy needs, and, like the United States, China is looking to coal as an alternative,” Byrd explained. “This funding will allow WVU experts to get in on the ground floor in the Chinese program, sharing knowledge and gaining insights that can help us here at home.”

“Here in West Virginia, we are building the foundation for a national coal-to-liquid fuels program. Such a program will help the United States to break the chains of foreign energy dependence. By participating in this joint U.S.-China project, WVU will be ready to help lead the American efforts here at home,” Byrd said.

“Given West Virginia’s history as an energy state, it is a natural progression for us to push the frontiers of research related to coal liquefaction,” said WVU President David C. Hardesty, Jr. “This is important work and we must meet the challenge to do all we can to secure the nation’s economic future as it relates to energy.”

Senator Byrd included $500,000 in federal legislation so that WVU can participate in the $1.5 million U.S.-China cooperative effort.  The three-year program will enable WVU scientists to gain technical, economic, and environmental performance information on the commercial deployment of advanced coal technology options.  As a joint activity between the U.S. Department of Energy and the China National Development and Reform Commission, WVU and the Shenhua Group in China are studying the economic and environmental effects of coal liquefaction technology.  Shenhua provides support for the WVU team when in China.

“WVU’s engineers and scientists have studied coal conversion technologies for many years. We thank Senator Byrd for providing funding to expand our horizon to the international realm. Information from the Shenhua project will hasten the deployment of advanced coal conversion technologies in the United States, where West Virginia can play a significant role,” said Richard A. Bajura, director of the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy and a co-investigator for the award.

“For too long, the United States has let itself grow dependent on oil from the Middle East. We must break that addiction,” Byrd said. “Coal offers us a great opportunity to break the chain of foreign energy dependence. The technology is ready today to convert coal to transportation fuels. It is common sense that we rely on our domestic resources to handle our domestic fuel demands.”

Byrd also has authored legislation that directs the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies to help export American-made clean energy technologies to developing nations like China.  By fostering the international trade, the West Virginia lawmaker believes that American jobs and American know-how can spur an overhaul of the U.S. energy industry.

“It is time to devote new innovation and ingenuity to energy. To do that, we must seriously invest in all of the energy resources that we have here at home, and coal should be at the center of that effort,” Byrd explained.

“Just as President Kennedy did when he sent this nation on a mission to put a man on the moon, this government can begin an intense national clean coal program similar to the space race of the 1960s. Such energy research will produce spin-offs that create jobs, improve life, secure our energy future, and enhance our environment. Not even with our crystal ball can we fully know what fantastic gains can be made.”