Well, Leucadia National Corp. has made it official. The New York City-based conglomerate indicated earlier this week it won't seek to override Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's veto of a bill that would have paved the way for it to construct a $3-billion coal gasification plant in Chicago.
Quinn vetoed the bill last week, indicating that while he endorsed the concept of the plant, he couldn't justify burdening customers of Ameren and Nicor, a pair of downstate utilities, with paying to bring it to fruition. Original plans called for two additional utilities to purchase gas from the plant, and therefore share in the project's costs, but the two later opted out of the deal.
The bill that Quinn vetoed would have required Ameren and Nicor to foot 95 percent of the project's bill while buying only 85 percent of the gas the plant produced.
Not to mention that numerous interests opposed the bill, from environmental groups to business and agricultural interests, the latter of which argued that consumers would be footing the bill for a product that utilities could purchase for less on the open market.
It just didn't add up.
Too bad, because the project would have brought thousands of construction jobs to Chicago, where construction unemployment rates are among the very worst in the nation.
On the other hand, facilities of this order aren't a sure bet. New forms of energy come in and go out of vogue all the time. With the power industry in a state of flux, who's to say whether the price of natural gas will go up or go down, or which sources of energy are cleaner than others? Everybody has an opinion – and a stake.
As Tom Wolf, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Energy Council, recently told reporters, “I don't think Illinois is unique in its energy policy conundrum. It's just a wild time for energy.”