FutureGen may have a future after all

The Obama administration isn’t making many friends in the energy industry with its ‘s big push for climate change legislation, but it is trying to play nice with the coal industry.

futuregen_cx305 A sign supporting the FutureGen power plant sits on the front lawn of a home in Tuscola, Ill., one of the towns that didn’t win the bidding competition for the futuristic plant. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman).

On Friday Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the administration would restart FutureGen , a project to develop a coal-fired power plant that captures and permanently stores most of its greenhouse gas emissions.
A site in Mattoon, Illinois was picked for the project in late 2007 (over two sites in Texas and another in Illinois), but by early 2008 the Bush administration pulled the plug. A Congressional study released earlier this year, however, concluded that decison relied on faulty data.
In an announcement Friday Chu said:

“This important step forward for FutureGen reflects this Administration’s commitment to rapidly developing carbon capture and sequestration technology as part of a comprehensive plan to create jobs, develop clean energy and reduce climate change pollution.” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The FutureGen project holds great promise as a flagship facility to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at commercial scale. Developing this technology is critically important for reducing reenhouse gas emissions in the US, and around the world.”

The project isn’t just about soothing the tempers of coal-state voters, however. Figuing out the technology to significantly control coal plant emissions would help deal with the the challenge that growth in the developing world — namely China and India — could undermine climate change legislation in the U.S. and Europe.
There’s still a lot that has to happen before we know for sure the project will really happen — namely more cost estimates and likely battles with opponents — but the outlook is a heck of a lot better than just a few months ago.