My fellow taxpayers, we sure are a generous bunch!
In our latest philanthropic endeavor, we have gifted $1 billion to the FutureGen Alliance, Midwestern utility Ameren
FutureGen 2.0 scraps the previously envisioned process of coal gasification in favor of an oxygen-enriched combustion process designed to make the resulting carbon dioxide easier to capture.
Initial funding for the project, which actually comes out of the Obama Administration's stimulus plan, will permit an idled power plant in Meredosia, Ill. -- owned by Ameren -- to be reconfigured as clean-coal pilot project that will send captured carbon dioxide through a 175-mile pipeline to an underground storage facility in Mattoon, Ill. This initial price tag does not provide for construction of the pipeline, which could add nearly $200 million more to the total cost.
According to the Energy Department, the designated location for underground storage could have the capacity to accept 50 million tons per year for 50 years. For starters, however, the project envisions a sequestration rate of about 1 million tons of the greenhouse gas per year.
Although I consider clean coal technologies a vital and promising area of research, I have expressed my personal misgivings about the potential risks involved in burying such a concentrated supply of the gas in one location. Similar to my safety concerns regarding the nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, here we will create another location where humanity can ill-afford an unintended release.
Following the departure of two American utilities last year, the membership of the FutureGen Alliance is now dominated by coal producers. Alpha Natural Resources
With the possible exception of retrofit contractor Babcock & Wilcox, Ameren appears to have the most to gain from the final arrangement of FutureGen 2.0. The utility pays a tidy dividend presently yielding 5.7%, and might deserve some research to determine whether FutureGen 2.0 could provide Fools with a tag-along investment opportunity.
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Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of BHP Billiton, Peabody Energy and CONSOL Energy. The Motley Fool scrubs its disclosure policy before releasing it into the atmosphere.