Position Statement

Fossil Energy and Energy Conservation R&D Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Request for the Department of Energy

by the Energy Committee of the Council on Engineering
submitted to the Subcommittee on Interior, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives
March 4, 1998


Chairman Regula and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.  My name is Bill Stenzel and I am pleased to present the views of the Energy Committee of the Council on Engineering of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).  Our testimony is directed to the research and development (R&D) programs of the Department of Energy related to the use of fossil fuels and to energy conservation.

Introduction to the Energy Committee of ASME

The 125,000-member ASME is a worldwide engineering society focused on technical, educational, and research issues.  It conducts one of the world’s largest technical publishing operations, holds some 30 technical conferences and 200 professional development courses each year, and sets many industrial and manufacturing standards.  This testimony represents the considered judgment of the Energy Committee and is not necessarily a position of ASME as a whole.  The Energy Committee consists primarily of members representing eight technical divisions addressing energy technologies and resources.

Energy R&D was the most important topic of concern for our members according to a recent survey of ASME members on public policy issues.   Energy Committee members recommend that an energy policy:

  • maintain competitiveness in the international marketplace;

  • protect our national energy security; 

  • seek technological solutions to concerns about global climate change and the emission of criteria pollutants; and,

  • protect the environment in all phases of the energy cycle from the extraction of fuels to the ultimate disposal of the products and byproducts of combustion.

Role of Technology

Increased national and international concerns about the environment are placing higher demands on the performance of our energy systems.  These demands sometimes ask us to make choices between maintaining our economy or protecting the environment.  As engineers, we confidently come before you to recommend that investments in technology are essential for enabling our nation to meet its needs for inexpensive energy that is produced and consumed in an environmentally friendly manner. 

Meeting our future energy needs in a manner consistent with national and global well being will require development of a broad suite of technologies ranging from renewables to nuclear energy. Fossil fuels, which are presently the predominant energy source, will remain the primary fuel for provision of energy for many years to come, both here and abroad.  Because of the prominent role of fossil fuels in our energy future, efforts to effect their prudent use will have a larger impact than might be true of other sources.  Hence, development of technology that improves the efficient and effective use of fossil fuels in a manner that achieves societal goals must be a major component of our nation’s energy strategy.  However, the component must be complimented by R&D investments in a broad range of energy production technologies.

The National Science Foundation recently reported that Japan, a country with a weaker economy than the United States at the present time, is planning to double its R&D investments by the year 2000.   In general, ASME requests your support of the premise of Senate Bill S.1305 to establish as a national priority the doubling of our federal investment in civilian R&D by 2009.  As a move towards that goal, the Energy Committee supports the Administration’s request for increases in the Fossil Energy and Energy Conservation R&D budgets.

The Energy Committee believes that immediate priority for increased funding for research programs should be given for:

  • programs in coal technology;

  • programs which promote increased efficiency in the industrial and transportation sectors; and,

  • programs to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. 

Increased research funding is necessary if our nation is to meet the challenges of global climate change outlined in the Kyoto treaty and the newly mandated requirements from the U.S. EPA for lower emissions of pollutants such as NOx, SOx, mercury, other hazardous air pollutants, and particulate materials.

Increased funding should also be allocated to basic research which both stimulates the development of innovative technologies and maintains our educational pipeline to ensure the supply of human capital to address our future needs in fossil energy technologies.

Programs in the Office of Fossil Energy

The Energy Committee supports the responsible use of all energy resources for generating electricity, transportation fuels, and use in the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.  Our assessment of energy use projections, such as presented in the EIA Annual Energy Outlook for 1998, lead to the conclusion that the United States must continue to maintain a diverse mix of energy supplies.  Fossil energy, however, will continue to carry its predominant share of providing energy for electric power generation and transportation into the foreseeable future.  Internationally, fossil fuels will play a similar dominating role in electric power generation and transportation.  The use of coal will increase in many of the developing countries.

Given the role that coal and other fossil fuels will play both nationally and globally, we support a robust portfolio of federal research to develop fuel flexible, high efficiency, non-polluting power systems, to increase the natural gas supply, and to develop low cost technologies to sequester carbon dioxide.  Our nation requires reliable, affordable energy supplies which minimize impacts on the environment in order to maintain long term sustainable growth and development of our overall economy.

Increased Power Plant Efficiency:  Many programs of the Office of Fossil Energy focus on increasing the efficiency of electric power plants.  These programs offer promise of increasing plant efficiencies from levels of less than 30% for some of our older pulverized coal power plants to levels in excess of 70% for more advanced technologies which use fuel cells and combined cycle systems.  For these systems, emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are reduced by more than half and other criteria pollutants are reduced to much lower levels.  These programs are an important contributor to meeting our national goals of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in addition to increasing our international competitiveness through the generation of inexpensive electricity.

Criteria Pollutants:  The emission of criteria pollutants such as NOx and particulate matter has been highlighted as a major concern with regard to air quality levels in areas such as the Northeastern United States.  Because of the importance of reducing particulate emissions [PM2.5 NAAQS] to the utility industry, in FY 1998 Congress added $3 million to the budget to support programs to promote a better understanding of the science involved in developing cost-effective control technologies.  We recommend continued congressional support for programs to reduce emissions from power plants, including our current fleet which operates with older coal-based technologies

Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions:  With regard to global climate change concerns, market reality indicates a need for greater funding for research to capture and sequester carbon dioxide from power generation systems.  We recommend a stronger program to support both current ideas and innovative research into technologies which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels.

Vision 21 Energy Plexes:  Fossil energy programs also include the development of energy plexes under the “Vision 21” program title.  Such systems offer the integration of power generation and the co-production of chemicals or alternative transportation fuels, waste heat, or other byproducts.  Vision 21 energy plex systems can attain high performance levels regarding emissions, including the capture of carbon dioxide.  We recommend continued investments in developing concepts such as Vision 21 to ensure the environmentally friendly use of fossil fuels and as a source of alternative transportation fuels to secure our energy independence.

International Programs:  The penetration of advanced clean coal technologies into our national market place will be likely delayed for several years because the present fleet of coal-fired plants is projected to be maintained.  These plants have low operational costs and will not be replaced in the near future because of the large capital investment which would be needed to replace approximately 300 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity to continue meeting our energy demand.  However, by assisting our industrial sector to introduce clean coal technologies internationally, we can promote reductions in carbon emissions on a global basis.   We recommend continued strong support for programs such as Clean Coal Technology and other applications for the international market which will ensure that all nations can reduce carbon emissions while maintaining their economy.

The Subcommittee should note that the global market for energy supply equipment alone was $570 billion in 1996.  The worldwide demand for energy will require investments of $6.6 trillion in the next decade.  The international market offers significant opportunities to improve our economy as well.

Environmental Concerns Regarding Fuel Extraction:  Concern for the environmentally friendly use of fossil fuels must also extend to the extraction processes as well.  We recommend increased national focus on remediation of the environment from the effects of extracting minerals such as coal and petroleum.  Continued support for the coal utilization byproducts program is recommended because of its application to mine land reclamation.  Capturing or using coal mine methane should be made a priority area with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Similar efforts should be made to reduce emissions from petroleum extraction and fuel distribution systems.

Programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Although many advances have been made in the development of energy efficient technologies such as electric powered vehicles, our transportation systems for the near and mid-term will remain dependent on fossil fuels as the primary energy source.  Liquid fuels will continue to dominate.  We support the goals of the Department of Energy to introduce alternative transportation fuels and technologies into the marketplace.  These technologies will have the benefit of both reducing emissions and reducing our dependence on imported petroleum. 

The Office of Transportation Technologies has promoted the development of more efficient engines for the truck and sport utility vehicle market, a segment of the transportation industry which has been responsible for about a 40% growth in petroleum consumption over the past 25 years.  Fuel consumption in our fleet of automobiles has remained essentially flat despite the larger number of cars due to increases in engine efficiency and lighter weight vehicles.  Other programs focus on the development of improved diesel fuels which reduce emissions of soot.   Research on alternative fuels derived from coal, biomass, and natural gas should be strongly supported to reduce our dependence on imported petroleum and ensure our energy security.  In many cases, these fuels, because of their chemical structure, burn more cleanly in transportation vehicles and offer the added benefit of reduced emissions.  By developing engines which operate more efficiently and are cleaner burning, the transportation sector can achieve lower emissions of both greenhouse gases and other criteria pollutants which affect the air quality in our major cities.  The Energy Committee supports funding for the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle (PNGV) program, as a successful partnering of public and private resources working to advance transportation technologies.


Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony regarding the use of fossil fuels.  ASME’s Energy Committee will be pleased to respond to requests for additional information or perspectives on other aspects of our nation’s energy program. 


ASME International is a non-profit technical and educational organization with 125,000 members worldwide.  The Society’s members work in all sectors of the economy, including industry, academic, and government.  This statement represents the views of the Energy Committee, an interdisciplinary committee of the Council on Engineering and is not necessarily a position of ASME as a whole.


Copyright 1998 ASME

Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2002

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