In what seems like the economist''s equivalent of confusing metric and British units, a government audit has disclosed that the Federal government''s estimate of how much it would cost to build a major experimental power plant was off by $500 million because it confused constant (inflation-adjusted) with unadjusted dollars. The error produced an inflated estimate of the plant''s total cost that contributed to the Bush Administration''s decision to cancel the plant last year, leaving the United States without a major carbon capture & storage (CC&S) project. The project, FutureGen, would generate electricity using coal gasification technology, with carbon dioxide separated from other waste streams and sequestered in some kind of quasi-permanent repository.
Energy Secretary Chu has told reporters that even with the error corrected, because of other factors, the total cost of the plant may still be too high. According to The Washington Post''s account, he said that if the plant costs more than $2 billion, that will be a serious problem because the country needs to explore a portfolio of affordable CC&S options. So, while the death of FutureGen may have been somewhat exaggerated, the same goes for its prospective resurrection.