WHERE'S the best place in the country to build America's first air-pollution-free coal-fired power plant? We think it's right here in the heart of it all: Ohio.
The Buckeye State is working to successfully convince the U.S. Department of Energy and a collaboration of electric utilities and coal firms, including the American Electric Power Co. in Columbus, to make this the home of the $1 billion FutureGen Industrial Alliance project. If that happens, Ohio will be out front in weaning the nation from dependence on foreign oil and natural gas.
Although at least 20 other states also are vying for the 275-megawatt, experimental plant, it makes sense to construct it here. The state's coal reserves, geology, and its ongoing coal research and development are persuasive reasons.
Officials at every level of government are working to shed Ohio's image as primarily an agricultural and manufacturing state. This plant's advanced technology would fit right in with the state's efforts to remake itself as the home of cutting-edge technology.
What is clear is that a decision will be made soon. Ohio colleges and universities should be able to help the state find the necessary researchers and highly skilled workers. At least 1,000 workers will be needed for three years of construction work. Once the plant is operating by about 2012, about 100 jobs will be created in such positions as research and operations.
The Ohio Environmental Council enthusiastically supports the project because the plant will not pollute. The plant would convert coal to an enriched hydrogen gas that would burn cleanly.
Carbon dioxide would be compressed into a liquid and stored deep underground. The process would eliminate pollutants such as mercury, which can cause health problems for women of child-bearing age and small children.
It would also eliminate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, major air pollutants that cause smog, and breathing and other health problems.
One of two drawbacks is that the sites being considered are not in northwest Ohio. The eight counties vying with each other are Stark, Carroll, Tuscarawas, Coshocton, Athens, Meigs, Hamilton, and Clermont. There is no coal in this region.
And the savings will be masked. Electricity supplied by the plant will cost about 10 percent more than today's rates.
But these are small issues when weighed against the possibility of Ohio leading the nation in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign energy.