IGCC, FutureGen and Obama

April 15th, 2013


I am so tired of the wing-nut hype against Obama for his “war against coal.”  Obama is promoting coal — he earned his label as a bigger coal toady than Bush when he revived the FutureGen IGCC project which Bush had the sense to drop (one of his few positive acts, well, on the other hand, maybe that was a passive languishing).  As if Obama’s transmission Rapid Response Team and “fast tracking” seven transmission projects and appointing former ATC attorney Loren Azar to push transmission that facilitates transmission for coal wasn’t enough…  WAR ON COAL?  Give me a break… Why don’t they talk about his promotion of coal gasification?  His taking money from coal interests (he is, after all, from Illinois, a coal state).

Just out, a report from the Congressional Research Service about FutureGen, the coal gasification plant that, no matter how they try, they just can’t get built.


From the report, first, a most understated explanation of the impossibilities facing this demonstration plant — that no investor would sink money into IGCC, that PPAs are outrageously cost prohibitive, and 90% capture, while difficult, means nothing if it’s not stored somewhere which is logically and physically impossible at the magnitude of coal plant production:

Congressional interest in CCS technology centers on balancing the competing national interests of fostering  low-cost, domestic sources of energy like coal against mitigating the effects of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. FutureGen would address these interests by demonstrating CCS technology. Among the challenges to the development of FutureGen 2.0 are rising costs of production, ongoing issues with project development, lack of incentives for investment from the private sector, time constraints, and competition with foreign nations. Remaining challenges to FutureGen’s development include securing private sector funding to meet increasing costs, purchasing the power plant for the project, obtaining permission from DOE to retrofit the plant, performing the retrofit, and then meeting the goal of 90% capture of CO2.
Multiple analyses indicate that there will be retirements of coal-fired capacity; however, virtually all analyses agree that coal will continue to play a substantial role in electricity generation for decades.
The money that has been wasted on this project, and other IGCC projects, when there are so many workable, constructable energy projects clamoring to be built, it’s insane, but this promotion belies their agenda of “finding a way forward for coal.”

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