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Big coal's very bad week

Is it possible that coal power is headed for extinction? In the past week, coal’s future as a cheap, plentiful source of power was dealt a one-two-three punch by the White House, Wall Street and the courts.

First came an uppercut, with the collapse of a futuristic program to build a near-zero emission coal plant. The surprise culprit? The Bush Administration. Normally a friend to the industry, the White House axed FutureGen, the Dept. of Energy’s showcase project on “clean coal”, due to soaring costs. With $500 million already spent, forecasted costs for the project had ballooned from $1 billion to nearly double that. Though typically at odds, environmentalists and coal execs agree such “carbon capture and sequestration” is an absolute must to slow global warming. If carbon is given a price, as is expected, coal-burning power plants will be among the hardest hit industries, so they must find technological ways stash their carbon output. It’s unclear what will come next. The DOE has announced it will start from scratch, and look for greater cooperation — read, bigger financial contribution — from the industry. For more, see the AP story.