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Illinois takes new stab at using all its coal

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill yesterday that lets Chicago Clean Energy build a $3 billion coal gasification plant in a rundown section of southeast Chicago, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Illinois EPA, though, opposes the bill: They do not want Chicago Clean Energy (a subsidiary of the Leucadia National Corp. holding company in New York) to add pollution to an already highly polluted area. Environmental groups and consumer advocates also oppose the plant as too environmentally costly and too expensive. The gasification plant appears to be another flawed idea as Illinois figures out what do with its coal resources.

The point of a coal-to-gas plant is that Illinois has a ton of coal that it could convert to natural gas — which reduces overall carbon dioxide emissions into the air. Instead, the CO2 would be captured and sequestered — though Chicago Clean Energy has yet to find a place to store the greenhouse gas.

Gasification is not part of a new clean, energy economy, but simply a replacement for natural gas. “The proposed plant would create gas for heating and cooking,” reported Kari Lyderson of the New York Times,” competing with natural gas — rather than electricity.” Instead, it is supposed to save consumers money on their utility bill: Chicago Clean Energy Company has claimed that Illinois residents will save $90 million over the next 30 years.

But even if that’s true, there are still unaccounted-for pollution costs.  People’s Gas, one of Illinois’ main utilities, is afraid the plant could produce leaks and strong odors. As with the failed FutureGen project, the state government believes it must use its coal, and is optimistic that it can do this without creating carbon dioxide emissions. But no project in the country has proven that it is possible to use coal on a large, affordable scale while also capturing coal’s CO2.

One Response to “Illinois takes new stab at using all its coal”

  1. Georg:

    Wonder if they will investigate if there is any new improved coal gasification solution available, or if they just go along with any of the out dated solutions, which is based on yesterdays technology?

    comment at 29. August 2011

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