Does clean coal exist? We might soon have the chance to find out now that the U.S. Department of Energy’s FutureGen clean coal plant project has been revived. FutureGen’s future appeared grim last year when the Bush administration killed the project, but Obama is bringing it back to life with one billion dollars from the stimulus package.
If built, the 275 megawatt FutureGen plant will capture carbon emissions from coal-derived energy production and bury them under ground. It’s a plan fraught with controversy; no one has ever tried to bury CO2 in large quantities, and some experts worry about the impact of a geological event (i.e. an earthquake) on buried CO2. The FutureGen project could answer a lot of questions–it will be the first real-world testing ground for carbon capture and storage (CCS), which potentially promises low-carbon power 24/7.
But just because Obama has promised the project $1 billion doesn’t mean FutureGen will ever get off the ground. The FutureGen Alliance still has to raise another $1.5 billion. Once fundraising estimates have been calculated early next year, FutureGen will decide whether to continue.
Despite these potential roadblocks, CCS could be a big help to countries like China that have CO2-spewing tendencies. And if FutureGen is successful, the U.S. will have leverage in selling the technology to developing countries that need it the most.