Posted by: greeningwashington | March 11, 2009

A High Stakes Mistake

Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, said he may reconsider renewing the Department of Energy’s support for the project FutureGen — “a public-private partnership to design, build, and operate the world’s first coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant.”

According to its website, the FutureGen project — which was partially funded by the federal government under the Bush administration until they deemed it too costly and withdrew funding —“uses cutting-edge technologies to generate electricity while capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide deep beneath the earth.”

The integration of these technologies is what makes FutureGen unique. Researchers and industry have made great progress advancing technologies for coal gasification, electricity generation, emissions control, carbon dioxide capture and storage, and hydrogen production. But these technologies have yet to be put together and tested at a single plant – an essential step for technical and commercial viability. The FutureGen project will develop and prove our ability to produce economical, coal-fueled electricity with carbon capture at a commercial scale. By generating 275 megawatts of electricity, FutureGen will be capable of powering about 150,000 average U.S. homes.

The government withdrew support of the project in 2007 after citing budget constraints; however, it has just recently been revealed that the Department of Energy miscalculated the actual costs associated with the project. A 500 million dollar math error that arguably caused the retraction of funding by the government.

According to the New York Times, the internal communications have surfaced that indicate leaders of the Energy Department were looking for reasons to kill the project. This is not surprising. However, the Recovery Act of 2009 may provide for the refunding of this project, or at least funding of carbon trapping technologies.

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