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Ill. coal plant project could be revived

Associated Press / March 12, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Energy Department failed to prepare a proper analysis and made a $500 million math error when it decided to shelve an experimental coal-fired power plant slated for central Illinois, according to a report from congressional auditors released yesterday.

The project, known as FutureGen, would be located in Mattoon, Ill., if the project were revived, and it could provide a boost for economic development in the coal-rich, east-central part of that state. But more importantly, its advocates say it could provide a road map for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from coal production.

The FutureGen project was conceived as a leading effort to capture and store carbon dioxide, a gas strongly linked to global warming. The Illinois town was selected for the project after it beat out two proposed sites in Texas.

Perfecting technology to capture and store carbon dioxide is viewed by many energy experts as an important step because it would mitigate the environmental drawbacks of coal-fired energy. Coal is one of the cheapest ways to provide energy, but its emissions contribute significantly to greenhouse gases.

The Bush administration withdrew its support from the project, known as FutureGen, a year ago, citing concerns that its cost had doubled.

Those concerns about increased costs were exaggerated, according to a report prepared by the Government Accountability Office for Representative Bart Gordon, Democrat of Tennessee, chairman of the House Science Committee.

According to the report, the Department of Energy made its decision based on an assumption that construction and material costs for FutureGen would "continue escalating substantially."

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