There’s a split in the environmental community on carbon-capture technologies, but that’s not stopping the Obama administration from plunging forward with support: The Department of Energy has formally committed a cool billion to the controversial FutureGen 2.0 demonstration project in Illinois.

Chief beneficiary of the funding is Ameren, which is working with a host of other power companies in the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to turn a coal-fired power plant into a clean-burning energy producer using oxy-combustion technology. That’s a process by which the fuel is burned in pure oxygen rather than air, theoretically yielding a carbon-dioxide rich gas that could be captured and stored.

image via FutureGen Industrial Alliance

As great as the idea of clean coal sounds, many environmentalists aren’t buying it. On the progressive website AlterNet, Jeff Biggers, whose “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland” won an American Book Award, called FutureGen 2.0 “an infeasible, prohibitively expensive, accident and leak-prone and chimerical scheme of oxy-combustion technology that will sorta kinda maybe capture, compress, pump and dump CO2 into Illinois’ aquifers and porous caverns.”

But while FutureGen has critics in the environmental community, it also has its supporters — the National Resources Defense Council, for example, backs the project. For his part, Energy Department Secretary Steve Chu used the FutureGen funding announcement to say that “developing innovative, cost effective carbon capture and storage technologies is critical to the country’s transition to a clean energy future.”

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