Published May 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Priming the Synfuels Pump The development of synthetic fuels is in the long-term economic interests of coal-rich states like West Virginia and also in the national security interests. That is why I have so strongly backed development of a national synthetic fuels industry. Three years ago, Congress approved legislation that I supported known as the Energy Security Act, which established the Synthetic Fuels Corporation (SFC). The purpose of the SFC is to financially assist private companies that are pursuing synthetic fuels projects. Federal assistance is necessary if we are to have a workable synthetic fuels effort, given the tremendous costs of undertaking such projects. Unfortunately, the current Administration has dragged its feet on developing synthetic fuels, despite my strong and consistent urgings and those of other members of Congress who share my interest in "synfuels" development. The Administration's reluctance has taken its toll: In the time the SFC has been operational, only one synfuels project has received financial assistance. During those years, private companies interested in pursuing synfuels projects, in anticipation of receiving federal help, were forced to give up those projects when federal funding was not forthcoming. In West Virginia, for example, two companies received feasibility study funding from the Energy Department for synfuels projects. As the months wore on without further federal aid from the SFC, however, our companies became discouraged and abandoned their synfuels efforts. In January of this year, I met with President Reagan at the White House and urged him to move forward with a federal synfuels effort. I repeated my strong support for synthetic fuels at that meeting, saying synfuels offered considerable economic benefits for West Virginia, and a large measure of energy security for the nation. Overall, I am dissatisfied with the lack of progress on a national synthetic fuels effort, as I explained to SFC President Victor Schroeder during a recent meeting in my Capitol office. I urged during the meeting that the SFC more actively and aggressively encourage synfuels projects in our Eastern coalfields, where we have the coal, water, and population needed to sustain a synthetic fuels industry. In addition, SFC officials have agreed to my request, and will meet with West Virginia industry representatives on June 13 in Charleston to discuss how the industries can seek financial help from the SFC for synfuels projects. My aim is to get the SFC headed in the right direction and on the course Congress charted for it in the Energy Security Act: Toward developing a synthetic fuels program that will help fulfill our country's future energy needs.