President Obama will pay any and all lip service necessary to appease the riled coal industry, insisting that no way is his administration using their regulatory powers to slowly but surely squash coal plants out of existence. After all, his administration has every intention of fully supporting (i.e., providing subsidies, grants, tax credits, and all manner of “investments” for) the drive for “clean coal” that employs carbon-capture and -storage technology to trap emissions. (Remember when, ahead of the 2012 election, the White House hastily added “clean coal” to their ostensible “all of the above” energy plan as an afterthought? Yeah, that was cute.)
There’s only one small problem with the administration making such wise and illustrious plans on our behalf: We aren’t actually anywhere near the point at which the benefits of “clean coal” outweigh the costs of producing it, even with all of the lavish subsidies the Obama administration has to offer.
The WSJ reports on one of the few such projects that currently exists, and surprise:
For decades, the federal government has touted a bright future for nonpolluting power plants fueled by coal. But in this rural corner of eastern Mississippi, the reality of so-called clean coal isn’t pretty.
Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County plant here, meant to showcase technology for generating clean electricity from low-quality coal, ranks as one of the most-expensive U.S. fossil-fuel projects ever—at $4.7 billion and rising. Mississippi Power’s 186,000 customers, who live in one of the poorest regions of the country, are reeling at double-digit rate increases. And even Mississippi Power’s parent, Atlanta-based Southern Co., has said Kemper shouldn’t be used as a nationwide model.
Meanwhile, the plant hasn’t generated a single kilowatt for customers, and it’s anyone’s guess how well the complex operation will work. The company this month said it would forfeit $133 million in federal tax credits because it won’t finish the project by its May deadline.
One of just three clean-coal plants moving ahead in the U.S., Kemper has been such a calamity for Southern that the power industry and Wall Street analysts say other utilities aren’t likely to take on similar projects, even though the federal government plans to offer financial incentives.
The Obama administration is really banking on being able to produce some results here with which they can blunt the criticisms about their regulatory central planning, but the heavy subsidization of yet another unproven, unfinished, and impractical technology doesn’t look like it’s going to oblige them in the effort any time soon.