Monday, January 12, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work: “Clean Coal” Division

Boosters of the mythic “clean coal” are lining up for federal grants to see their shiny-sparkly vision of clean energy become reality. Guess they figure there’s a pony under all that coal ash.

The latest is from Holland, Michigan, America’s tulip capital:
The U.S. Department of Energy will soon be looking at a Clean Coal Power Initiative grant application that could lead to carbon capture and sequestration at Holland’s James De Young power plant. The road to this point has been a long one, however, and is far from an eventuality.

The grants — totaling $300 million — would allow Praxair to test full-scale carbon capture and sequestration. It is estimated a grant for a 78-megawatt boiler project at the Holland Board of Public Works’ plant could be about $150 million.

Praxair Inc. is set to file its application for the DOE grant Monday, Jan. 12.

$300 million is a mere pittance compared to the $1.9 billion in federal funds Illinois legislators are begging new Energy Secretary Steven Chu to reinstate for that state’s FutureGen project. And that's just the tip of the iceberg:

Among other things, the coal industry is asking for money to help expand and, ideally, commercialize carbon capture and storage projects—widely seen as the most plausible way for the coal industry to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide—as well as for additional investments in coal research and technology. And like many energy groups, it is asking the federal government to get serious about expanding the transmission grid, which in coal's case would allow new plants to be built closer to mines, thereby lowering costs.

Says Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association: "The bigger point here is that you can't talk seriously about a green energy grid and a greener, less impactful energy supply without spending on carbon capture and storage, because not only the U.S. but the developing world especially will increasingly use coal owing to its low cost and abundance."

Uh, yeah. But what exactly are we going to do with all of that carbon we’ve “captured”? And if we can spend $1.9 billion to figure that out, then why can’t we spend $1.9 billion to figure out how to put a solar panel on the roofs of America’s homes and businesses?