Carbon Capture Projects Could Overshoot Energy Funding Deadline

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According to a letter sent to the US Department of Energy by Gregory Friedman, the Inspector General, there is some risk that $3.4 billion in American  Recovery Act (ARRA) funds may not get allocated in time to meet the September 30th deadline, which is the “use it or lose it” date. While 90% of the ARRA funds were spent on clean energy,  the remaining funds might not make it.

Most of this was to be for two Carbon Capture and Storage projects to see if coal can be used to make energy without endangering the climate on this planet for the next 100,000 years.


Several billion in funds to demonstrate and monitor CCS are of concern to the Accountability and Transparency Board (pdf). The Carbon Capture and Storage project was to partially fund construction of the first commercial scale, fully integrated, carbon capture and sequestration project in the country.

However, the Department of Fossil Energy has not yet completed its selection process for the $1 billion CCS project. Also, the industrial application of CCS is in danger of not being fully allocated in time. Nearly half the original award amount, $741 million is still unallocated.

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If CCS was proven to be successful, this would be the way that coal power stations of the future would be built, and in India and China, most are yet to be built. If it turns out to be not possible to make energy from coal without carbon emissions – endangering our only feasible home in the universe – we also need to find that out, and that is what this program was designed to determine.

The causes of the delay appear to be the increase in applicants with little or no experience in preparing proposals for Federal awards due to the radical increase in energy department funding, bureaucratic resistance in states inexperienced with novel technologies, and a shortage of time in the department to help smooth a path to implementation.

In particular CCS is novel and potentially environmentally hazardous technology, and when both innovation and environmental issues meet bureaucracy, it is bound to be overwhelming to state-level officials.

The other energy department-funded projects in danger of overshooting their deadline include three through the EERE: $177 million for weatherization, $111 million in block grants for conservation and $68 million for energy efficient buildings. ARPA-E, the advanced technologies program has $155 million unspent, 40% of its allocation.

The Department of Environmental Management still has barely begun on an $84 million project for remediation and cleanup (pdf) of former weapons complex and nuclear research facilities. Another two nuclear cleanup projects at $99 million and $77 million are more advanced but funding might not be completed in time.

As 90 days is frequently required to get project approval through at the state level and funding delivered, at this point, these currently unallocated funds might well wind up missing the September 30 deadline.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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