Image via Jetson Green
What's perhaps the most infamous clean coal project in the US--the controversial multi-billion dollar FutureGen plant in Illinois--has just gotten some major funding from the stimulus bill. Around $1 billion dollars worth. Which seems to make sense; even though clean coal's a joke, we already knew there was funding in the stimulus bill for it. But what makes this a curious case is the political maneuvering involved--Futuregen was once a pet project of Obama's when he was still a senator, and some are claiming the once-ill fated project's funding is nothing but a big fat earmark.Politico sets the scene:
It became a sort of poster child for fiscal responsibility — a clean-coal power plant in Illinois that was one of then-Sen. Barack Obama's pet projects. Democrats insisted they were so serious about keeping pork out of the stimulus bill that it was President Obama himself who blocked the FutureGen project from the massive spending package. Brendan Daly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's spokesman, said at the time: "The speaker said it, and the president said it: There will not be earmarks in this bill."
And yet. Now it's gotten the go ahead for a billion dollars in funding. The project's proponents argue that there was no specific listing for the FutureGen project in the stimulus language, and that it's getting money because it's the only project that was "shovel ready."
However, skeptics aren't satisfied:
But others say that's a distinction without a difference — that FutureGen is merely an earmark by another name, a project that had powerful patrons, funding straight out of the stimulus bill and requirements for the money targeted so narrowly that only a few projects would fit the bill.
Politico goes on to weave the complex tale of how the project got funding, lost it, and regained it again; and it does seem a little fishy--as stories of politics in Washington often are.
So is it an earmark, or isn't it? If you ask me, I'd say: who cares? It's a billion dollars for clean coal--it's a waste either way.