'Clean Coal' takes a Hit in Texas

"Clean Coal" gets another setback as Texas Project fails to perform to specifications.

Green Scissors, a coalition of free-market, taxpayer and environmental groups, today sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz calling on the U.S. Department of Energy to withdraw support permanently from the Texas Clean Energy Project, a proposed carbon-capture-and-sequestration facility in Penwell, Texas. The long-troubled facility was the subject of a recent special report from the Department of Energy Inspector General's Office. The report revealed that while the facility was stalled in its initial design stage and unable to secure private financing, the DOE circumvented its own rules and improperly spent $100 million ahead of schedule.

'Clean Coal' is a process by which syngas is created from coal, which is then used by other process to create various forms of lower carbon fuel, or sequestered underground. The process uses waste coal from coal fired industries and utilities. The hope has been that such process will make coal, which is relatively cheap and plentiful, less environmentally harmful. However, to date, there has been little progress making an economically viable solution.

In Texas, in spite of the loss of an estimated $116 million in taxpayer funds so far, DOE recently extended the expiring cooperative agreement with the facility to July 1, 2016. Although the remaining $220 million earmarked for the facility was suspended in February, extending the cooperative agreement leaves open the possibility that additional funds could be distributed at a later date. Today's letter from Green Scissors calls for the immediate termination of the cooperative agreement and the withdrawal of all remaining funds.

The Reaction

“The DOE has spent more than $100 million of taxpayer funds chasing an elusive breakthrough in carbon capture and sequestration rather than filling the much more appropriate role of funding basic research. This isn't an innovation strategy. This is a boondoggle,” said Catrina Rorke, director of energy policy at the R Street Institute.

“It is outrageous that DOE continues to dangle cash at the Texas Clean Energy Project. Taxpayers have already lost $100 million to that black hole,” said Autumn Hanna, senior program director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Like FutureGen and other CCS endeavors before it, this project shows no signs of success. It is past time for DOE to end the gravy train of subsidies.”

“Shoveling more tax dollars at this false solution is no answer to the climate crisis,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “How many more lifelines does Secretary Moniz intend on throwing to this boondoggle?”

The Green Scissors coalition has consistently opposed subsidies for CCS on fiscal and environmental grounds. This includes stimulus funding for struggling facilities like FutureGen 2.0 and Hydrogen Energy California, as well as ongoing efforts to extend and expand tax credits for capturing CO2.