'Clean Coal' Bottom Feeders: Chu Hands Out $1 Billion in Big Coal Welfare, Durbin Hands Out Cigars

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CommonDreams.org

'Clean Coal' Bottom Feeders: Chu Hands Out $1 Billion in Big Coal Welfare, Durbin Hands Out Cigars

The demise of the climate and clean energy bill be damned! Welcome to Meredosia, Illinois, catfish capital of the world!

And now, home to the next installment of bottom-feeding Big Coal welfare -- a check for nearly $1 billion to retrofit a decrepit old plant from Energy Secretary Steven Chu for FutureGen 2.0, our nation's scandalous "clean coal" boondoggle.

As his prairie state's schools go down the drain in the current budget crisis, US Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is passing out cigars for the welfare check, and ludicrously claiming that FutureGen 2.0 will create more than 30,000 jobs in the next ten years.

30,000 jobs in ten years? Why does the normally liberal Democrat Durbin turn into such a snake oil salesman when it comes to dirty coal?

Here's a reality check: Durbin admits that this new boondoggle version of the completely illusory FutureGen carbon capture and storage chimera will result in only 700 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.

Wow, $1 billion for 700 construction jobs and 50 long-term jobs -- most likely for out-of-state job seekers? Durbin just needs to stand at the entrance of the nearby Peabody coal-fired plant -- the Prairie State Energy Campus -- and check out the employee license plates (transients from Missouri, Texas, Wyoming). This $4.4 billion boondoggle of a coal-fired plant will spew 12 million tons of CO2 when it is completed, and raise local electricity rates.

And for a prohibitively expensive "clean coal" experimental plant that everyone knows will not be commercially viable for decades -- and still result in increased devastating coal mining?

With or without oxy-combustion or the most fanciful of "clean coal" technologies, the reality is that coal will continue to kill--over 1,000 coal miners still die annually from black lung disease. Coal slurry continues to poison community watersheds; coal ash dumps remain toxic time bombs; and strip mining and mountaintop removal operations continue to lead to the largest forced displacement of American citizens since the 19th century.

Even in Durbin's Illinois corn fields, American farmers are losing their fertile farm lands and their historic farm homesteads to longwall mining.

In truth, FutureGen 2.0 is just the new scheme in the long-time FutureGen soap opera; instead of completely capturing carbon dioxide emissions by turning coal into hyrdrocarbon gas, the next plan is to feed oxygen and burn coal into pure CO2, pipe that 170 miles across the corn fields to Mattoon, and then bury it into leaky storage holes.

Even Council on Environmental Quality chief Nancy Sutley had to make a quip about the stark lack of reality when it comes to "clean coal" sloganeering at last month's National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC).

And Secretary Chu -- what about that $1.4 billion down payment check for "clean coal" jingles in Mattoon, Illinois last year? Gone fishing?

Meanwhile, Peabody Energy, one of the FutureGen welfare queens, just experienced the death of another coal miner in Illinois in a violation-ridden mine -- and they just announced Peabody's launch of the world's largest strip mines in Mongolia... to solve world poverty.

Talk about bottom-feeding snake oil salesmen.

Oh, my dear friend Sen. Dick Durbin: When are we going to be in the forefront of the clean energy movement and truly jumpstart our impoverished coalfield and rural community economies with sustainable green jobs and industries?

When will the Big Coal welfare ever end?

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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