A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) project called FutureGen was originally a $1 billion coal plant to produce hydrogen and test carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS). CCS means that the carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major contributor to global warming – is captured before it’s spewed into the atmosphere and then transferred underground for storage. This is an experimental technology, and FutureGen was going to be a big test case. The DOE had been planning the project with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance – a group of about a dozen energy companies – for about five years, and it was supported by President Bush.
A site in Illinois was just chosen last month for the 275 megawatt plant, but it was all canceled late last week after its price tag had nearly doubled to $1.8 billion because of increased cost in materials and labor. Energy Secretary Bodman instead announced a Plan B: Start over with a new program that would charge the project’s industrial partners with the cost of building the plant and the government with the cost of the CCS technology. Bodman asserted that this would be a better use of taxpayer dollars. He also said the government would demonstrate the CCS technology at multiple sites:
“Under this strategy, the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, will join industry in its efforts to build IGCC plants by providing funding for the addition of CCS technology to multiple plants that will be operational by 2015.”
The FutureGen alliance is not happy with the Secretary’s decision and dispute his assertion that the cost has doubled. Not surprisingly, Illinois’ Congressional delegation is also less than pleased and think the change in plans will seriously undermine future CO2 sequestration projects. Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, along with other elected officials, declared in a letter to President Bush that they have “lost confidence in Secretary Bodman” and that he had created a “false hope” in the people of Illinois with a project that he had no intention of funding or supporting.