President Bush has long touted clean coal technology as a potential solution to global warming. In 2006, he insisted that the United States is “spending quite a bit of money here at the federal level to come up with clean-coal technologies.” During Monday’s State of the Union address, Bush said, “Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions.”
Yet just 24 hours after his SOTU declaration, Bush’s Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman indicated the White House was pulling the plug on the ambitious FutureGen project, a clean coal plant that was touted as “the cleanest fossil fuel fired power plant in the world.”
In a meeting with lawmakers from Illinois — where FutureGen was set to be installed — Bodman “all but drove a stake in” the $1.5 billion project:
[Rep. Timothy] Johnson [R-IL] said Bodman told the group that he planned to disband FutureGen and go “in another direction.” At one point, Johnson and Bodman snapped at each other. At another, U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Democrat, told Bodman that “the first action taken by the president after the State of the Union was a series of broken promises.”
“In 25 years on Capitol Hill, I have never witnessed such a cruel deception,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, hinting at the administration’s political considerations for the project’s demise. “When the city of Mattoon, Illinois, was chosen over possible locations in Texas, the secretary of energy set out to kill FutureGen.”
Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Robert Sussman notes that companies and governments around the world have committed to supporting FutureGen. “It would be a blow to future international public-private partnerships if the Bush administration were to allow these commitments to languish,” said Sussman.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that the Illinois lawmakers intend to appeal the decision to President Bush, and that Durbin “might block nominations to fill two key vacancies at the Energy Department.”