While Peabody Coal, one of the prime sponsors of the FutureGen boondoggle in Illinois, announced an eightfold increase in profits in their fourth quarter reports for 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee just approved legislation for an additional $4.6 billion in handouts to the coal industry as part of the stimulus package, in the guise of “clean coal.”

There’s a new detail on this “clean coal” money: $2 billion are no longer slated for zero emissions plants, but “near-zero emissions” power plants — so much for all of those TV ads about zero emissions.

What are near-zero emissions? Sorta like near-zero coal ash ponds and accidents, near-zero 10,000 black lung cases, near-zero workplace mining accidents, near-zero 1 million acres of strip mining and mountaintop removal, near-zero watershed contamination, and near-zero coal truck accidents?

This is on top of $2.8 billion the coal industry picked up in the last bailout.

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In the meantime, check out the dream team sponsors of FutureGen, the much ballyhooed poster child of the “clean coal” proponents who somehow like us to forget that before coal will ever be burned with near-zero mercury and carbon dioxide emissions, coal first needs to be extracted, processed, transported, and burned with ash piles.

FutureGen Alliance Members include:

  • Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU): the world’s largest private-sector coal company
  • Anglo American, LLC: one of the world’s largest mining and natural resource groups
  • BHP Billiton: the world’s largest diversified resources company, and an industry leader in major commodity businesses including, aluminum, coal energy, and metallurgical
  • China Huaneng Group: one of the top 10 power companies in the world and the largest coal-based power generator in the People’s Republic of China, representing about 9 percent of China’s generating capacity
  • CONSOL Energy, Inc.: the largest producer of high-Btu bituminous coal in the United States, the largest exporter of U.S. coal, and one of the largest U.S. producers of coal bed methane
  • Foundation Coal Corporation: one of the five largest U.S. coal producers with 13 surface and underground mines located in six Eastern, Midwestern, and Western states
  • Xstrata Coal Pty Limited: the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal and the fifth largest producer of hard coking coal, producing both premium quality hard coking coal and semi-soft coal

But here’s the good news: Wind is on the rise. As Greenwombat notes, wind jobs nearly rival coal jobs now.

Just think what an extra $4.6 billion could do in the wind energy field?

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