Thursday, March 12, 2009

Clean coal project killed by simple math error?

In 2004, in an attempt to address climate concerns, the Bush administration decided to fund a public/private venture for carbon capture and storage known as Futuregen. The project was a consortium between 13 utilities, the DOE, and several coal companies that was aimed at building the world's first "zero emission" coal fired power plant. On January 30th, 2008, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman pulled the plug on Futuregen citing numerous cost overruns. Additionally, Bodman cited the need to assist initiatives underway on existing coal plants as another reason to cancel the project. Understandably, the city of Mattoon Illinois, which had been chosen as the site for Futuregen, was not pleased. And it turns out they might have more reasons than originally thought to be upset with the decision.

In an article ran by the New York Times today, it appears that the DOE might have made a simple calculation error estimating cost overruns using real dollars vs. nominal dollars as the basis for cost estimates to the tune of half a billion dollars. The DOE under Bush calculated the project cost would have doubled based in the initial estimates but independent auditors calculated that the increase would have been around 39%. Additionally, the article hints that the DOE was looking for reasons to kill the project and that the error might not have been an accident.

Yesterday the Government Accountability Office released a report detailing the findings of their study. You can read all about it here.


The New York Times:

The Washington Post:

Scientific American:

Government Accountability Office:

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