Energy & Environment

Obama administration shuts down Bush’s ‘clean coal’ project

The Obama administration has shut down a Bush administration federal project aimed at demonstrating “clean coal” technology.

The $1.7 billion FutureGen 2.0 project was meant to build a coal-fired power plant in Illinois that captures carbon and pumps it underground.

{mosads}Congress authorized $1.1 billion toward the project in 2009 as a continuation of a 2003 project Bush proposed.

“The U.S. Department of Energy has directed the suspension of FutureGen 2.0 project development activities,” Ken Humphreys, head of the public-private FutureGen Alliance developing the plant, said in a Tuesday statement.

“The DOE has concluded that there is insufficient time to complete the project before federal funding expires in September 2015. Despite the Alliance’s commitment to advancing carbon capture and storage technology and cleaner energy from coal, as well as our belief that there are solutions to address the impending deadline, the Alliance must comply with DOE’s directive.”

The Energy Department only spent about $200 million of the money authorized in the 2009 stimulus law. FutureGen obtained some permits but never started construction.

FutureGen was a priority for the Bush administration, who wanted to show that coal could be a part of a future with limited greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government is still spending money in other clean-coal projects, though the United States still does not have a commercial-scale coal plant with carbon capture.

The Energy Department confirmed the end of the program, saying it did not believe it could get far enough along in construction by the time federal funding expired this September.

“In order to best protect taxpayer interests, the Department of Energy has initiated a structured closeout of federal support for the project that will help maximize the value of investments to date while minimizing ongoing risks and further costs,” DOE spokesman William Gibbons told Crain’s Chicago Business.

“While this is an unfortunate outcome, the department acquired valuable information and tangible benefits from the work accomplished to date.”

Gibbons said the department is committed to carbon capture development and deployment, and will continue to fund efforts toward that goal.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a major proponent of the project in his state, called the project’s end “a huge disappointment for both Central Illinois and supporters of clean coal technology” in a statement to Crain’s.

“A decade-long bipartisan effort made certain that federal funding was available for the FutureGen Alliance to engage in a large-scale carbon-capture demonstration project,” he said. “But, the project has always depended on a private commitment and can’t go forward without it.”

Tags carbon capture Coal Dick Durbin Energy Department

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