Sessions tours coal electrical generation facility

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) met with officials from Alabama Power’s Power Systems Development Facility Wednesday to learn more about using coal as a viable energy source.

The facility is working to develop cost-effective technology that will change coal into a gas to produce electricity. Natural gas is an expensive energy source, whereas coal is plentiful and much cheaper to use, said plant manager Kerry Bowers.

“This is a unique research and development center. We’ve had over 1,200 visitors from over 40 countries to learn about this kind of technology,” Bowers said.

Sessions said the idea of coal as an energy source can be practical.

“This is a top facility in the United States to test coal gasification,” he said. “You can take coal, even low-grade coal, gasify it and remove the impurities.”

The Department of Energy is putting money into research and development of coal gasification, and the PSDF has responded by stepping up their research, Sessions said.

“They’re looking to make the process better,” he said. “They’re confident they can compete and make it even cheaper.”

Sessions, who is on the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources, said the idea of clean coal is often talked about as a possible part of the solution to the nation’s energy problem.

He said the problem with using coal is that it gives off carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to global warming.

“The environmentalists focused on carbon dioxide would not see this as an advantage,” Sessions said. “It’s very expensive to sequester the carbon dioxide under current technology, but maybe there will be a breakthrough there. If you could sequester carbon dioxide, this would eliminate objections to coal.”

Chuck Spurlock, Sessions’ state director, said the senator is focused on looking for different ways to solve the energy crisis.

“The bottom line is they’re looking for a clean way to use a natural resource we have a lot of,” Spurlock said. “We’re looking for anything that gives different ways of producing energy.”