DOE DROPPING FUTUREGEN?
This is huge news. In essence, the Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing that “clean” coal costs too much. Politicians trying to straddle the divide between New Energy producers and fossil fuels energy producers have been promising that carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS), or “clean” coal, is the way to burn Old Energy without generating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They have been preaching that New Energy is “admirable” but not cost competitive. Now DOE all but comes right out and says that if the country is going to keep burning coal, it is going to have to face higher costs or it is going to have to live with GHG emissions.
Maybe it is time for the country to quit listening to politicians preaching about “clean” coal. Maybe it is time to get on with building New Energy infrastructure. Even if this DOE plant, dubbed FutureGen, were to capture all the emissions generated from burning coal – and prototypes have rarely capture even half – coal would still not be clean. There would still be the environmental devastation of coal mining. And transporting coal from the mine to that plant would generate enormous emissions.
This FutureGen project is far from over. It is a public-private undertaking by DOE and the FutureGen Alliance (9 private energy companies). When the project was launched, DOE’s share was $800 million. By last year, that had climbed to $1.3 billion. DOE is probably threatening to pull out only as a tactic in a renegotiation of who will cover the burgeoning cost. (See “CLEAN” COAL COSTS)
Alliance members could pick up the balance. It appears that is what DOE wants. But some of the companies in the Alliance spend good money to get the best Congress they can buy, so they are not reaching for their wallets yet. Fredrick Palmer, vp, FutureGen Alliance member Peabody Energy: "It is way too soon to say this project is dead, because Congress has yet to be heard from…"
Artist's rendering of the FutureGen Alliance headquarters and plant, planned for Mattoon, IL, and now in doubt. (click to enlarge)
U.S. Lawmakers Say Energy Department Pulls Support for Virtually Emissions-Free Power Plant
Jim Suhr (w/David Mercer and H. Josef Hebert), January 29, 2008 (AP via Yahoo Finance)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) (Secretary Samuel Bodman), The FutureGen Alliance (American Electric Power, Anglo American Services, BHP Billiton, China Huaneng, CONSOL Energy, E. ON U.S., Foundation Coal, Luminant, Peabody Energy) (Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman; Fredrick Palmer, senior vp, Alliance member Peabody Energy), the state of Illinois (Gov. Rod Blagojevich-D, Sen. Dick Durbin-D, Rep. Jerry Costello-D, Rep. John Shimkus-R)
DOE announced it is removing its funding from FutureGen, a “clean” coal project developed with public-private investment. In response, Illinois political leaders are threatening to fight for the funding in Congress, in court and in the Oval office.
- President Bush announced this project in 2003.
- DOE expressed doubts about the project’s costs earlier this month and requested a reduction in its share of the plant’s funding from $1.3 billion to $800,000.
- The announced schedule calls for the Alliance to take bids this month on core technology, to break ground in the summer of 2009 and to begin operation in 2012. DOE’s hesitation is threatening to delay.
The process. The basic problem is that CO2 is not a byproduct of coal combustion, it is the product. That's a lot of CO2 to capture. (click to enlarge)
The FutureGen Alliance had selected Mattoon, in central Illinois, for its “clean” coal plant. Mattoon beat out Tuscola, Illinois, as well as Odessa and Brazos, Texas, locations to win the opportunity to host the FutureGen plant. One of DOE’s cost-cutting suggestions is to spread the project to other (as yet unspecified) locations.
- The 275 megawatt Mattoon FutureGen plant with CCS capability was projected to cost $1.8 billion.
- Illinois expected 3000 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs from the Mattoon plant.
- What plans DOE now has for FutureGen remain unclear.
Theoretically, the CO2 captured would be permanently sequestered underground. Theoretically. (click to enlarge)
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): "…[I will] make the case for FutureGen directly to the President…We will not go down without a fight…"
- DOE statement: " [DOE] remains committed to FutureGen's objectives to advance the availability and use of clean-coal technology to meet growing demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions…[DOE] believes that the public interest mandates that FutureGen deliver the greatest possible technological benefits in the most cost-efficient manner."
- Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL):, "[DOE is] cutting and running on a project that is critical to our nation's energy future."
- Rep. John Shimkus (D-IL): "…our greatest fears have been realized…Now we have to regroup and review all of our options as we move forward…President Bush proposed FutureGen in 2003, and we will start by reaching out to him."
- IL Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D): "[DOE] deceived the people of East Central Illinois who spent time and resources competing for the project…We're not giving up the fight to make FutureGen a reality in Illinois…"