The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designates $3.4 billion in federal funding for investment in pioneering clean-coal technology, including power plants that would capture carbon dioxide so only small amounts are released to the atmosphere. The Texas political establishment launched a campaign this month to press Energy Secretary Steven Chu to consider funding a project proposed by Summit Power Group for a site near Odessa, in western Texas.
Another clean-coal project by Tenaska Inc. at a site east of Sweetwater, Texas, also is a contender. A power-plant proposal in Mattoon, Ill., which was a showcase project under a failed Bush administration clean-coal program called FutureGen, also is trying to secure financing and is backed by the Illinois congressional delegation.
The funding comes on the heels of the FutureGen effort, which was stalled last year by then Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman when the estimated cost rose to $1.8 billion. Mr. Bodman said he thought the project had little chance of yielding results. The Energy Department's decision to cancel FutureGen, after many millions of dollars had been spent, was a blow to those who believed the technology would never move forward without strong federal support.
In a letter signed by nearly 100 members of the Texas legislature, Mr. Chu was asked last week to offer federal assistance to the Odessa project. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas) is also lobbying for the plant, as are more than two dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation. On Friday, Ms. Hutchison said the project would create badly needed jobs and was "critical for the production of clean domestic energy." The Odessa project had lost out under the FutureGen program when it was beaten out by the Illinois site. But its backers believe it stands a strong chance under the new program. At $1.6 billion, the Odessa plant would cost about 10 times as much as a modern gas-fired power plant. (WSJ, 3/22/09)