Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Coal supporters have gotten $4.6 billion for their industry into the Senate economic stimulus bill — nearly double the money in the House version. As we noted last week, that coal pot includes $2 billion for the development of “near-zero emissions” power plants, $1 billion for the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, and $1.6 billion for carbon capture at industrial plants.

Now some are wondering whether part of that funding might go to revive FutureGen, the controversial proposed “zero emissions” coal plant in Illinois that the Bush administration axed when costs ballooned up toward $2 billion.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said that he wants 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 state-mate Barack Obama also pushed to revive the plant back when he was a mere senator.

A spokesperson for coal-hugging Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) says FutureGen is one of a number of projects that the Department of Energy could spend the stimulus money on, TPM reports.

Keep in mind that the billions DOE had budgeted for FutureGen didn’t go away when the project was shelved last year — the money was just redistributed to other projects that aim to get carbon capture-and-sequestration technologies up and running. Thus, any money from stimulus that goes to the research and development of “CCS”/”clean coal”/”near-zero emissions” technologies would be in addition to the billions the federal government is already sending in that direction.