It seems the Bush Administration is re-considering its support of an experiemental showcase coal-burning plant to generate electricity. Recently it was announced that FutureGen would be built in Mattoon, Illinois. An Administration spokesperson didn't complain because the plant was NOT sited in Texas, instead it's claimed to be the spiralling cost that's leading to a threat to end federal support. Yet Texas officials already see this as a chance to re-bid for a scaled-down FutureGen.
Apparently, the Department of Energy will come out soon with a call for a revamped FutureGen. Perhaps even a relocation? Even though the project's spear-headed by a coalition of mining and utility companies, it was the federal taxpayers though our rulers in Washington who were going to pay most of the cost for construction. Original plans called for the industrial partners to pay 26%, the U.S. government 74%. Maybe they should see if China or Saudi Arabia's interested in a coal-fired plant in Mattoon?
It seems unlikely that Illinois state goverment could step in and help pay the tab. FutureGen's total cost's now estimated to be about $1.5 billion, and that's before work has even begun. Last year the feds ponied up over $100-million for the project.
The new Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, told Illinois politicians he doesn't really believe in the current project plan. He has better ideas for carbon sequestration. Needless to say, the Illinois delegation on Capital Hill is furious. They're going to appeal to the President. It's not about oil, so I suspect FutureGen may not get a whole lot of sympathy from the man with less than a year in the Oval Office.
As the "Washington Post" pointed out, there were earlier hints the project had political trouble, "After the private partners in the project picked the Mattoon, Ill., site, the department [of Energy] refused to issue what is known as a record of decision on the environmental impact statement, effectively blocking progress. "
I knew they should've picked a Texas site.
The whole idea of FutureGen was to incorporate new technologies to eliminate most emissions from coal-burning and increase generation efficiency in numerous ways. That, in turn, would help insure use of coal to produce electricity far into the globally warmed future. Think of it as "No Coal Mine Left Behind." Earlier I blogged about the new technologies that would demonstrated at Mattoon. Ideally the FutureGen plant would prove commercially successful and thus lead to adoption of such new tech across the utility industry.