A Postmortem on the FutureGen 'Clean Coal' Project

Earlier this month the Energy Department pulled the plug on the FutureGen "clean coal" project. The media has been sifting through the ashes to make sense of where the project went wrong.

1 minute read

February 13, 2015, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Timothy Cama sets the stakes in the demise of FutureGen, a much ballyhooed "clean coal" project once thought of as the future of the fossil fuel industry: "The Energy Department’s decision this week to pull the plug on a major 'clean coal' demonstration project stands as the latest setback for a technology that only recently held promise as a key piece of the United States’ fight against climate change."

Cama's coverage of the project's demise explores the response of industry groups, which "are seizing on the decision to scrap the years-old initiative as more evidence of the Obama administrations 'war on coal.'" Cama, however, quotes Howard Herzog, a research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to express some skepticism of that charge.

Joe Romm covers the challenges facing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which was meant to have its largest-scale showcase with the FutureGen project. According to Romm, "CCS is unlikely to provide more than 10 percent of the answer to the carbon problem by 2050" because of lackluster interest in the technology from the private sector.

Valerie Vocovici and Ayesha Rocce report on the legal implications of the decision to pull the plug on the project—especially that the decision might bolster the case of legal challenges to the U.S. EPA's proposed regulations for coal plant carbon emissions

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