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Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers

Posted: September 30, 2010 10:47 AM

Party down, Big Coal lobbyists! Give those Ameren utility dudes a raise.

After investing nearly $800,000 in political contributions, Big Coal utility giant Ameren just got confirmation that a pay-off check for nearly $1 billion is in the mail, courtesy of US taxpayers.

Rock on, Energy Secretary Steven Chu!

All Ameren has to do is kinda sorta maybe refashion one of its coal-ash spewing World War II-era coal-fired and oil-burning plants into FutureGen 2.0 -- an infeasible, prohibitively expensive, accident and leak-prone, and chimerical scheme of oxy-combustion technology that will sorta kinda maybe capture, compress, pump and dump CO2 into Illinois' aquifers and porous caverns.

Don't worry: The company helping Ameren built the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, so they're good to go.

And get this: Ameren is already sending its boys over to Illinois to soak the state's taxpayers for a probable hike in utility rakes to cover any costs not bankrolled by the federal "clean coal" welfare program.

As business leaders in Mattoon, Illinois, noted recently, after their town got shafted on the FUTUREGEN rollercoaster, they even question why anyone wants to "become the 'dumping' ground for other people's waste."

Good question. The answer, according to US Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is a handful of jobs. After receiving more than $135,000 in political contributions from Ameren and other Big Coal lobbyists, Durbin can now crow that he pulled in $1 billion in US taxpayer funds from the federal stimulus to create approximately "500 jobs, pipeline construction would add another 275, and there would be 75 new permanent jobs."

Do the math: Those are some expensive government-funded and subsidized jobs.

According to energy analyst Rory McIlmoil at Downstream Strategies, spending that billion dollars on clean energy projects would be a vastly better investment all around:

There are other options available to the Department of Energy for investing in projects that would generate electricity while also reducing carbon emissions associated with that generation. For instance, $1 billion in energy investment using taxpayer dollars could be used to develop 500 MW of wind power or 125 MW of rooftop solar panels, and once these were installed, there would not be any fuel costs, carbon emissions, or risks related to the geologic sequestration of CO2. Additionally, investing public funds in solar or wind rather than FutureGen would prevent additional costs to human health and the environment that would result from the mining, processing, and burning of coal at FutureGen. Finally, while the FutureGen project would--according to the Alliance's own estimates -- create a total of 11,000 jobs nationally, research by the Political Economy Research Institute suggests that $1 billion in investment in solar or wind would create even more jobs than the proposed FutureGen project: 13,300 for an equal investment in wind, and over 13,700 for an equal investment in solar."

Too bad the cancer-plagued farmers contaminated by coal slurry in nearby Illinois communities never received such compensation.

Too bad nearby farmers are now losing their ancestral farm houses and fertile rows of corn to longwall mining and more coal slurry is slated for their aquifers.

Too bad Illinois coal miners who are dying daily from black-lung disease can't get a little more of this pork.

FutureGen 2.0 is not even scheduled to sorta kinda operate on a commercial scale for a decade, so we don't even need to note the issue of peak coal and FutureGen's increased coal production needs.

No, today is party day for Big Coal and its utility partners, and Big Coal-bankrolled politicians like US. Sen. Dick Durbin.