The Department of Energy’s decision to change how it’s involved in the FutureGen “clean coal” power plant project has really ticked off industry and Illinois politicians.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich called the move “politics at its worse.”
“On November 30th, 2007, the Department of Energy sent a letter reaffirming that the project was moving forward as planned. Only after it became clear that an Illinois site would be chosen over a Texas site, the Department suggested the project be delayed and now today, that it be dismantled.”
In other words, if Texas couldn’t win, no one could?
The FutureGen Alliance, the group that represented the private sector part of the project, issued a release today that it says clarifies “errors” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman made in a press call on the project yesterday:
On January 30, the Department of Energy proposed a major restructuring of the FutureGen project. This document corrects inaccuracies in the DOE’s press release and statements made by DOE officials during a conference call with reporters on January 30, 2008.
DOE: Project costs have nearly doubled.
FACT: Project costs have increased, but DOE’s share has not doubled– not even close. When President Bush first announced FutureGen, the DOE share was $800M. DOE’s current estimated share is $1.1B with the increase due to inflation. A White House Official agreed and was quoted in The New York Times on December 17, 2007, “……the market for steel, concrete and power plant components has ‘just gone through the roof globally’.” DOE’s contribution will be reduced by contributions from foreign countries. Additionally, the Alliance has offered to provide DOE with partial-to-full repayment to ease the final cost to the taxpayer. The costs are manageable.
DOE: Financing part of FutureGen is inappropriate.
FACT: DOE clean coal projects routinely involve financing. It is common practice for commercial plants to be majority financed and under DOE’s alternative plan, it is a near certainty that industrial partners will finance a major part of the project.
Alliance member contributions, thus far, have been cash donations. The Alliance has told DOE that it still expects a majority of its contributions will come from cash donations. Proposed financing is a small relative to traditional projects. The Alliance includes some of the world’s largest companies; DOE’s notion that they might default is nonsense. The Alliance has fulfilled all its responsibilities thus far.
DOE: Wants iron-clad funding guarantees from industry.
FACT: DOE is providing no guarantees for its own funding, which will be available on a year-to-year basis depending upon available appropriations.
DOE: FutureGen, as configured, is “smaller-than-commercial-scale”.
FACT: FutureGen is commercial scale. The facility will be built around a commercial-scale gasifier and commercial-scale frame 7 turbine.
DOE: DOE’s alternative plan will sequester twice as much CO2 as the current project’s one million ton goal.
FACT: The Mattoon site and FutureGen, as currently configured, can sequester approximately two million tons per year. The environmental impact statement considered as much as 2.5 million tons.
DOE: Cites the MIT study, “The Future of Coal” as part of the justification for the new approach
FACT: Dr. Ernie Moniz, lead author of “The Future of Coal” and former DOE Under Secretary was quoted in the New York Times after the announcement of the Mattoon, IL site that “FutureGen makes complete sense.” Also, the Alliance has used the ideas in “The Future of Coal” and other sources to refine the original effort over the past year.
Here’s DOE’s release announcing the restructuring of FutureGen.