photo via flickr
The story of FutureGen, the first of its kind carbon capture and storage project, has more ups and downs than an episode of "Gossip Girl." The project was first conceived and financed under the Bush Administration, but they dropped it before leaving office, citing costs. But the Obama Administration revived the project, promising that the test project would be the first of many CCS projects, giving coal and oil power plants a new lease on life. But last month FutureGen's host city, Matoon, IL, said thanks but no thanks after officials announced that the town would not be getting a new coal plant but instead would serve as the storage site for the CO2 waste, buried deep underneath its ground.
Instead of Matoon, the Department of Energy wants to move the oil power plant, which will use "oxy-combustion" technology, to Meredosia, IL. The original Matoon plant was to use integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology, which creates hydrogen and electricity. The DOE has until Sept. 1 to finalize plans for the Meredosia plant at a cost of $1.1 billion.
So what does this all mean? It means that CCS is still a long ways a way, and it's no panacea for our energy and pollution problems. Very few cities will want to host CO2 pollution deep underground and the cost remains very high. Yet policymakers and the coal industry keep selling CCS as a solution. The Waxman-Markey bill, passed last year, put a price on carbon, but it also contained huge giveaways to coal in the shape of free pollution allowances and hundreds of billions of dollars for CCS research and deployment.
Instead of fighting about CCS sites and dumping billions of dollars on a questionable technology, it would be better to invest in proven low or zero carbon technologies. It can be done. Look at Portugal, which now gets 45 percent of its energy from renewable sources.