The fight to clean up coal keeps getting dirtier.
Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Energy pulled its financial support of FutureGen, a $1.8 billion "near zero-emission" coal-fired plant. To be expected, the companies involved in the project didn't hold back from airing their disappointment.
But on Thursday, the group, which includes coal companies and electric utilities, went on the attack by issuing a blow-by-blow account of why the federal agency is wrong.
The DOE announced Wednesday that it was "restructuring" the project due to the spiraling price increases that have almost doubled from the approximately $950 million originally expected (see DOE Pulls Back on FutureGen's Reins).
With the federal agency footing 74 percent of the bill, the hope was to use cutting-edge technology to build a power plant with the capacity to generate 275 megawatts by 2012. A key component of the project includes capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground.
But the agency canned FutureGen's single research-and-development-style plant in favor of developing coal emission-cutting technologies at multiple sites.
But the business group spearheading FutureGen wasn't having it. A day later, the FutureGen Alliance issued a document correcting the "inaccuracies" in key criticisms made by the DOE about the project.
The cost of the plant was among the issues the alliance took up. The group admitted that project costs have increased. "But DOE's share has not doubled," the group wrote.
The alliance went on to explain that when President Bush first announced FutureGen, the federal agency's share was about $800 million. Although it now hovers at about $1.1billion, the group claims the increase is due to inflation.
Such tension between industry and government had some market watchers questioning the potential fallout for others developing clean-coal technologies (see Clean Coal Firms Not Worried About FutureGen Setback).
Helping to quell concerns is the fact that the DOE said it would continue its support of cleaning up coal. It just might not do it the way the FutureGen Alliance had hoped.