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Unions say carbon capture advocates need to focus message on job generation

Jobs are the missing component in selling the idea of carboncapture and storage technology development in the U.S., according to unionexecutives.

"We have large swaths of community that are sufferingand we have huge opportunity for investment," said Roxanne Brown,assistant legislative director from the United Steelworkers, at a U.S.Department of Energy and Coal Utilization Research Council event called"Showcasing Advancements in CCUS Technology" in Washington, D.C. onSept. 29.

Union workers speaking at the event generally supportedcarbon capture technology because it could help bring long-term stability tofossil fuel power plants and the grid they supply. "We reallybelieve that CCS is what's going to save the coal industry and the coalplants," said Jim Hunter, the utility department director of theInternational Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO IndustrialUnion Council, said the labor movement believes in reducing emissions andgreenhouse gases, but not in a way that would impact the energy supply chain. "Youdon't reduce greenhouse gas emissions and you don't slow down climate change byrestricting the supply," he said at the event.

But the speakers also said carbon capture facilities canprovide a lot of jobs — a factor that many politicians have not focused onwhile advocating for increasing investment in the research of such technology.

"We're really looking forward to working on thesetechnologies," said Cecile Conroy, the director of government affairs inthe political and legislative departments from the International Brotherhood ofBoilermakers, at the event. She said her union loved pollution controltechnology, as its installation created jobs. But she also worried that, if theU.S. did not act more quickly to invest in these kinds of technologies, othercountries would. "We would like to see that start in the United States."

Markell echoed her statement. "If we don't use CCStechnology here, we will lose the technology to overseas."

On the other hand, Markell said focusing on renewable energyoften took jobs out of the U.S., as solar panels and wind turbines were oftenmanufactured overseas.

He suggested that government job training programs couldfocus on training people to work in carbon capture facilities rather thantraining them to install solar panels, which does not offer very high wages. "Whenthe government helps pay for training programs, it would be really great ifthey could have high payment standards attached to that," he said.

Brown called for the Energy Department to conduct studies onthe number of jobs that carbon capture facilities provide, or could provide, asthis kind of knowledge would help sell the idea to Congress. "Thatwould be a very important study," she said. "Jobs are the missingcomponent."