$500 Million Math Error Shut Down "Near Zero Emissions" Coal Plant

zero emission coal math error image
Image via Center for American Progress

The high-profile FutureGen project in Illinois was pioneering carbon capture and sequestration--the controversial effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions in coal plants--when it was shut down last year after the US Department of Energy found that the expected cost of the project had doubled. But it looks like somebody needs to brush up on their multiplication tables—the DOE's estimate turned out to be $500 million dollars off the mark. In a report released today, Congressional auditors have found that a massive 500 million digit mathematical error led to the Bush Administration pulling support from the project, which was considered the leading carbon sequestration effort in the nation. Woopsies.

However, while the previous administration was certainly capable of such a blunder (oh so subtly called "math illiteracy on a grand scale and with global consequences" by House Representative Bart Gordon), there's reason to believe that the problems with the project had more to do with ideology than arithmetic.

First, ol' Mr. Bush never was the most outspoken champion for fighting climate change or developing emissions curbing technology. Secondly, according to the NY Times, "The staff of the House committee found internal communications indicating that the leaders of the Energy Department were looking for reasons to kill the project."

Hm. And what's one surefire way to kill an unpopular project? How about tacking on an additional $500 million to the price tag? Should do the trick.

So now it looks like the lights could come back on at the FutureGen plant—current Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu has said that he'll consider renewing the project, but that changes will have to be made.

More on Carbon Capture and Sequestration:
The Carbon Sequestration Cost Everyone Else Forgot
Wetland Restoration: The Best Alternative to Carbon Capture and Sequestration?
Carbon Sequestration Financials Look Weak

Tags: Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Emissions | Carbon Sequestration | Clean Coal | Coal


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