Preliminary analysis of the stimulus deal from Congress available yesterday indicated that funding for “clean coal” had been cut from the package altogether. But it appears that funding in the bill could still go to carbon capture and sequestration projects through the package, which the House approved Friday afternoon.
The full text [PDF] of the 1,494-page bill doesn’t include any more specifics, just noting that “an additional amount” of $3.4 billion should go toward already-existing fossil fuel R&D programs at the Department of Energy. So essentially, the DOE will get to decide how those funds are used. As we reported during the Senate debate of the bill, the funding could go to carbon capture and sequestration programs like FutureGen.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said previously that he wanted to get funding for FutureGen into the stimulus package, and that he got a “positive response” when he discussed the project with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. His former state-mate Barack Obama has also pushed to revive the plant. And the billions DOE already budgeted for FutureGen didn’t go away when the project was shelved last year, they were just redistributed to other projects that aim to get carbon capture-and-sequestration technologies up and running.
It’ll likely, then, be Chu who gets to decide how the $3.4 billion from the stimulus gets spent. Back before he was secretary of energy, Chu called coal his “worst nightmare.” At his confirmation hearing, he offered a sunnier outlook for coal, saying that he’s “very hopeful” that carbon capture and sequester (CCS) technology is possible on a commercial scale. “I am optimistic we can figure out how to use those resources in a clean way,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that this will occur and I think that we will be using that great natural resource.”
Expect to see coal fans lobbying hard for Chu to plug these funds into CCS development.