Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) likes to say that Congressional earmarking has become the gateway drug to federal overspending. Is there any better evidence of this theory than President Barack Obama’s $1 billion earmark for a special project in Illinois that was slipped into his failed $862 billion stimulus? According to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the Obama Administration awarded $1 billion on August 5th for a Carbon Capture and Storage Network in Illinois:
Today’s announcement will help ensure the US remains competitive in a carbon constrained economy, creating jobs while reducing greenhouse gas pollution. This investment in the world’s first, commercial-scale, oxy-combustion power plant will help to open up the over $300 billion market for coal unit repowering and position the country as a leader in an important part of the global clean energy economy
This project was an earmark in the stimulus according to a Washington Post story dated March 6, 2009:
Deep inside the economic stimulus package is a $1 billion prize that, in five short words, shows the benefits of being in power in Washington. The funding, for “fossil energy research and development,” is likely to go to a power plant in a small Illinois town, a project whose longtime backers include a group of powerful lawmakers from the state, among them President Obama.
On page 139 of the President’s stimulus plan, Public Law 111-5, you can find the earmark: “For an additional amount for ‘Fossil Energy Research and Development’, $3,400,00,000.”
According to a Department of Energy press release, this one billion dollar earmark is being provided to “FutureGen Alliance, Ameren Energy Resources, Babcock & Wilcox, and Air Liquide Process & Construction, Inc. to build FutureGen 2.0, a clean coal repowering program and carbon dioxide (CO2) storage network.” The Department of Energy projects 1,900 jobs as a result of $1,000,000,000 in new spending. This works out to about a half million dollars per job. Senator Coburn said of the $1 billion earmark:
This costly and gratuitous earmark further calls into question the integrity of the Recovery Act. This decision appears to have more to do with politics and geography than science. FutureGen 1.0 was called ‘YesterGen’ because it had little scientific value. Now, taxpayers are being forced to finance the largest pork-barrel project in our nation’s history with borrowed money. Adding another $1 billion to our debt for a dubious project will only delay our recovery.
The Hill reports that problems have emerged with the implementation of this earmark.
A long-troubled federal project to demonstrate the viability of capturing carbon from coal-fired power plants and socking it away underground has hit a new snag. The town of Mattoon, Ill., wants no part of the Energy Department’s revised “FutureGen” project after seeing its role in the program change and shrink. Last week DOE rolled out a revamped version of FutureGen, the program to build a next-generation coal plant with a consortium of power and mining companies. DOE scrapped plans for building FutureGen from the ground up in Mattoon, where local officials were excited about the jobs that would come with it.
This is the same project initiated by the Bush Administration, then canceled in 2008 because of cost overruns. Now Mattoon, Illinois is rejecting the project. With unemployment today at 9.5% and a failed stimulus plan, it would seem like a good time to take a second look at this program to potentially cancel this waste of taxpayer dollars.