FutureGen is back.

The Department of Energy announced that it is once again working with a coalition of 20 companies to study the feasibility and costs of building the FutureGen clean coal plant. The plant, ideally, will emit far less emissions than a standard coal plant and the gases produced will be captured and sequestered.

Starting in July, the preliminary design efforts will be restarted along with the budget analysis process. If all goes well, the DOE and the FutureGen Alliance companies will then move forward with the project. The DOE anticipates committing $1.073 billion to the project while the Alliance will contribute $400 to $600 million.

Energy Secretary Steve Chu said earlier this year that he wanted to revitalize the project. The Bush administration initially kicked off the FutureGen project, but then scuttled it after about a year, blaming cost overruns. Coal executives and independent analysts said that the cost overrun estimates from the Bush administration were too high. The plant is slated to be built in Mattoon, Illinois.

Democrats on the House Committee on Science and Technology revived the controversy this year with a report stating that the cancellation put back carbon capture by a decade. Worse, they estimate that it would have only cost $1.3 billion, not the initial estimate of $1.8 billion.

The report says that DOE staffers told the administration:

Without FutureGen, the availability of affordable coal fueled [carbon capture and sequestration] plants would be delayed at least 10 years and will not allow widespread deployment of CCS until near 2040. Affordable CCS technologies will not be available in time to meet the expected turnover of the existing fleet of coal power plants in the US, nor for incorporation into the development of the world’s massive coal resources in countries such as China and India.

Yesterday, Chu also announced that the DOE would provide $300 million in grants for research into cars ($240 million of the total), solar and carbon capture and storage.