The Once and FutureGen: Pretend Clean Coal Project Dies Again

Announced in 2003 by George W. Bush, Illinois Carbon Capture Project Allowed The Clean Coal Operatives to Tell Better Lies

FutureGen bites the dustThe reason the representation of the FutureGen project looks like an architectural model is because that’s as far as it got. Look how clean those imaginary windows are!!!

If you have been entertained by the coal lobby’s “Clean Coal” ads* the past few years, then the legend of the erstwhile and never again to be FutureGen 2.0 should provide even more amusement. The ground breaking project known as FutureGen was orignally announced by George W. Bush in 2003. It was going to be a showcase to prove the validity of Carbon Capture Storage (CCS). Once that validity was demonstrated, then that would mean we could keep mining and burning coal, all the while knowing that our skies were clear and our water was pure.

Instead, FutureGen showcased the usual stuff. With $1 billion dollars in subsidies, the first version of FutureGen was a “pilot” program. That means it was the first stage in a process that would eventually involve actual production of electric power that people can use. This phase of the project was cancelled because of escalating costs. FutureGen 2.0 was re-announced in 2010 and everyone was happy again because there would be $1,000,000 in taxpayer money again, and coal would be clean again. After awhile.

But FutureGen 2.0, along with most of the other imaginary clean coal projects, is now no more again. It was killed on February 1 by the US Energy Department, because the costs were going through the roof again.

But the people who produce the happy clean coal commercials only heard the happy talk at the beginning. Then their ears were plugged by money.

The following commercial has a FLAG in it. If you disagree with this commercial, or think there may be a bunch of bullshit in this commercial, then you are not  Patriotic and might be a homasectoool.


CCS is supposed to remove CO2 from industrial combustion and bury it deep in underground geological formations. It looks good on paper and at this point, other industries have had some early success storing CO2 gas underground. No one knows how long it will stay there, but that’s not the point. The point is that operatives* for the coal industry immediately seized upon the possibility that FutureGen would get built, and then work, and then be convertible to a large enough scale to be applied nationally and do all that within an economic context that made sense as being the same as clean coal being a reality. The way the liars tell the story on prime time, this was already a done deal.

But it is not a done deal, for the simple fact that it is too expensive. It is more experimental than alternative energy and you know what the GOP says about that stuff.

FutureGen bites the dust

The only large scale CSS project in the United States that involves coal at present is the Kemper County Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle in Missouri. Whether this is real or not depends on your semantics. There is a facility and billions of dollars have been spent, but the site is not yet in service. The original cost estimate for the project was $2.88 billion and total cost at this point is $6.1 billion. About triple that is. The project was supposed to go online in 2014, but look, here it is 2015 and it is not online. It is supposed to be operating by early 2016, though. Maybe. ‘Til then, we can watch the clean coal commercials and pretend!

Another plant – the first commercial scale electric utility in the world to deploy CCS in the real world – began operating in late 2014. SaskPower’s Boundary Dam utility in Canada captures about 90% of its carbon and pumps it through 40 miles of pipeline. But the problem with this plant and others in the works is that CCS is way expensive. It’s more expensive than alternative energies such as solar and way more expensive than wind. So why are we pumping more taxpayer money into propping up the untenable?

Yes, you there in the back, in the expensive suit. Do you have the answer?

Here’s the thing: Even if all of the carbon generated from burning coal could be safely and permanently stuffed back deep underground where it started, it would not change the fact that the extraction of coal kills the places where it happens.

* The same people who get all frothy about the War on Coal – And sharing a demography with the same people who hallucinate about a war on Jesus and his birthday. Why no war on Easter. Tired out from waging war on Christmas?
**They are as accurate of BP’s mission accomplished commercials about the Deep Horizon spill being all fixed. Good job Brownie.
***Globally, taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels of all types is about $1 trillion dollars. “Traditional” energy companies continue to receive ten time more tax remedies and direct subsidies than renewables, even in the face of astounding profits.


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