Game Over? Obama Gifts Big Coal $1 Billion
Coal trains in the region often stretch as long as 1.5 miles.
Photo Credit: Tara Lohan
In the same days an entrepreneur went on federal trial for fraud over an unproven "clean coal" scheme, President Obama's Department of Energy gave a game-changing approval for a $1 billion gift to continue the unproven FutureGen "clean coal" boondoggle in Illinois.
Kind of ironic, ain't it -- if it weren't so tragic.
On the heels of the West Virginia coal-cleaning chemical disaster, with Illinois residents already besieged by a toxic coal rush that has seen production increase by an estimated 70 percent in the last few years, amid record climate disruptions and drought and flooding, this billion dollar bonus to Big Coal might signal "game over" for clean energy and climate initiatives in the heartland -- or at least Illinois.
According to the DOE "record of decision," the project "would support the ongoing and future use of the nation's abundant coal reserves in a manner that addresses both aging power plants and environmental challenges."
"Clean coal is an essential component of the President's 'All of the Above' energy strategy and the proposed project would help DOE meet its congressionally-mandated mission to support advanced clean-coal technologies," the DOE added.
According to the Energy Information Administration, coal production -- and its disastrous fallout of coal slurry, black lung disease and clean water contamination -- in the Illinois Basin should surpass the central Appalachian coal fields by the end of the decade.
Too bad neighboring Iowa can't take over Illinois -- yes Iowa, a state that has taken the lead in the multi-billion-dollar wind industry, making it as competitive in the market as dirty coal.
Illinois, meanwhile, continues to lose nearly $20 million annually to maintain the state coal industry, according to a study last year.
And hardly a single green job designated for southern Illinois' struggling economy.
Last spring, the Congressional Research Service issued their own concerns about the viability of FutureGen's carbon capture and storage plans:
Nearly ten years and two restructuring efforts since FutureGen's inception, the project is still in its early development stages. Although the Alliance completed drilling a characterization well at the storage site in Morgan County, IL, and installed a service rig over the well for further geologic analysis, issues with the power plant itself have not yet been resolved.
Other countries, like Norway, have abandoned the CCS boondoggles after years of planning.
In Illinois, instead, residents in coal mining areas -- not unproven CCS technologies -- have been abandoned. Check out a few recent examples of "clean energy" champion Gov. Pat Quinn's defining coal legacy in the last year:
- Quinn appointees granted a pollution waiver to five aging and toxin-spewing coal-fired plants last fall
- Federal authorities were called in last week, in order to force state officials to stop turning a blind eye on illegal logging and controversial strip mining operations in Saline County
- Despite 600-plus Clean Water Act violations, the state renewed the permit for a strip mining operation in central Illinois
- Despite farmer and town resident petitions over possible safety violations, the state has allowed high hazard coal slurry dams to be built inside the limits of Hillsboro
- Despite record drought, flooding and climate disruptions, Quinn has championed the five-fold increase of dirty coal exports down the impacted Mississippi River
- Abandoned mines continue to threaten and leach toxic discharges into unprotected communities, farms and forests
A Saline County resident said it best this week, with a strip mining threatening his community's future and clean water: "Our problem is we've got tornadoes and floods, but this is a man-made disaster," he said. "We are trying to protect our homes and neighbors."