Environmental Groups Have an Alternate Proposal for Abbott Power Plant’s Coal Use

March 10, 2010

The main source of power to the University of Illinois campus burns coal, but a student group wants to convert it to something cleaner.

Environmental groups have also gotten behind a call to make Abbott Power Plant a natural-gas-burning plant. It was built 70 years ago and has burned coal ever since, except for a period in the 1970s when the U of I converted it to natural gas. The university reverted to coal to demonstrate cleaner burning methods using Illinois coal.

Parker Laubach heads Students for Environmental Concerns. He acknowledges that natural gas would also emit carbon dioxide, but it would be a good first step to other alternative sources.

"We want to take incremental steps," Laubach said. "We don't want to be ridiculous and ask to shut down Abbott Power Plant -- we know it's not feasible or reasonable. But they've burned 100% natural gas in the past, and because of that, we feel that they can do it again. There's really no reason why not."

University officials have not yet returned calls seeking a response.

Laubach says the U of I is proposing to to spend $230 million on improvements at Abbott - money he says would be better spent on conversion to cleaner sources. He says research on cleaner coal burning is useful, but so-called carbon-capture technology hasn't been tested on a large scale.

Story source: AP