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Coal Gasification Gets Real

The technology works, but public policy will dictate its future.
Fortnightly Magazine - January 2005

industry needs to take the initiative."

But while such initiative is important, achieving broad public-policy goals will require more investment than any research coalition is likely to mobilize. What's needed, ultimately, is a new approach to advancing energy technology that eschews the need for annual federal budget allocations, provides certainty about the goals being targeted, and rewards private investments that serve long-term, public-policy goals.

The industry, moreover, would welcome such reform if it is applied equitably. "We need certainty about what we need to do," says John Stowell, a vice president with Cinergy. "If we can get a long-term view on environmental regulations and technology development, we can make more progress, quicker and cheaper."

Approaches that could bring such certainty include permanent tax credits that help companies bear R&D costs, and regulatory reform at the state and federal levels to remove disincentives for R&D-both in terms of environmental regulation and ratemaking treatment.

Under the , however, the crisis that Margolis and Kammen identified five years ago is only getting worse. "The old way of funding R&D is ineffective," Zimmer says. "It is not achieving our goals, and is putting us at risk. We need to step away from timeworn answers and find new ones." - M.T.B.

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