Smokestacks of coal power station.
With the Bush administration withdrawing its support for the
FutureGen CCS project, its future seems doomed.
The coal industry sees CCS as their last hope to stay relevant
in a world hungry for carbon-free energy. The idea behind CCS is
simple enough, as the carbon dioxide is released from burning coal,
you capture it, and dump it underground and hope it doesn't escape
and end up in the atmosphere.
The problem is that no one has successfully done it on the scale
required to halt climate change and no one can guarantee that the
carbon dioxide will behave and stay where it was dumped.
Solar Power Soars
At the same time that the coal industry is pinning its hopes on
CCS, world demand for renewable energy continues to soar. Between
2000 and 2005, the global market for solar panels alone increased
by an incredible 40 percent per year.
FutureGen's official supporters read like a Who's Who of the
global coal industry with the likes of the US Department of Energy
(DOE), BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, American Electric Power Service
Corp., Anglo American, and China's largest coal-based power
company, China Huaneng Group all part of the FutureGen
Massive hand outs
Despite the impressive list of friends, the project still put
its hand out for plenty of tax payers' money. Some of the hand outs
the project managed to get are:
- US Department of Energy had agreed to pay 75 percent of the
- US$17 million investment grant package to bring FutureGen to
- Sales tax exemption on building materials and selected
- US$50 million of cheap loans by the Illinois Finance
If the cash hand outs weren't enough, FutureGen was also
fortunate enough to have a law passed by Illinois lawmakers to take
ownership of any sequestered carbon and thereby, somewhat
ironically, relieving FutureGen of any future financial and legal
liability if there was an accidental release of carbon dioxide.
The coal addicted lawmakers also agreed to indemnify FutureGen
from lawsuits and pay for insurance policies to cover the plant if
it does get sued. It appears that the only things CCS is good at
capturing is tax payers hard earned cash.
The FutureGen power station was originally scheduled to be
operational in 2012 but has still not left the drawing board.
Although President Bush announced the project in 2003, it took the
coal consortium 4 years to decide on the town of Mattoon, Illinois,
as the preferred construction site.
Cost blow out
FutureGen was then further delayed as the US Department of
Energy required a reassessment of the power station's design due to
the projected cost for building the station rising in just three
years to a staggering US$1.76 billion, an 85 percent cost blow
With the US Department of Energy's promise to pay for 75 percent
of the project costs now topping out at over US$1.3 billion, even
the coal loving, big spending US President decided the price for
the unnecessary and unproven CCS technology was too high.
Other CCS projects like BP's Miller oil and gas field in the UK
and a joint venture between Statoil-Hydro and Shell in Norway have
also hit financial troubles forcing their cancellations.
Last year we launched the
Energy [R]evolution, which shows conclusively that even without
CCS or nuclear power, the world can meet all its energy needs by
increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy.
Incredibly, even whilst countries like the UK talk up the
problem of climate change, saying that it is a bigger threat than
terrorism, they are also proposing to build new coal power
stations. Our activists recently interrupted a coal industry talk fest in the
UK to deliver the clear message directly to the industry that coal
has no future in a carbon free world.
Every dollar spent on false solutions like CCS is a dollar not
spent on real solutions like renewable energy and increasing energy
efficiency. With FutureGen now all but scrapped, the smokescreen
put up by the global coal industry to hide the massive climate
impact of burning coal is finally beginning to clear.
Click here to start your own Energy [R]evolution.
The [R]evolution may or may not be televised but it does need funding. Help us ensure the world switches to renewable energy by making a donation today.