Feds move forward with clean coal plant — kind of

The U.S. government is moving ahead with FutureGen, a $1 billion demonstration clean coal plant — and by “moving ahead,” we mean they’ve decided that it will be built on one of four sites in either Texas or Illinois. The final siting decision will be made in September 2007; construction could begin in 2009; operations are unlikely to start up until 2012. Some enviros support the FutureGen concept — turning coal into a hydrogen-rich gas and sequestering carbon underground, providing energy with virtually no CO2 emissions — but wish the feds would hurry it up a little. “[I]t’s a very expensive plant, and it won’t bear any fruit for years. In the meantime, that money could be going to carbon-reducing technologies with a near-term benefit,” says Rebecca Stanfield of Environment Illinois. When it finally gets online, FutureGen is expected to be a model of clean power generation. Meanwhile, 150 regular coal-fired plants are expected to be built in the U.S. in coming years, and they could increase the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 percent.