How can a Nobel Prize–winning physicist—now the nation's energy secretary—get a bunch of coal industry folks to sit up and take notice during a keynote speech? How about by announcing that the feds are planning to dispense $2.4 billion to research and develop so-called clean coal technology?

In fact, that's exactly what Steven Chu did today at a meeting of the National Coal Council in Washington, D.C., where he announced that the government plans to add another $800 million to the Clean Coal Power Initiative pot of cash designed to explore new ways to cut acid rain, smog and mercury pollution as well as $1.5 billion to probe carbon dioxide capture and storage (rather than venting it) from heavy emitters other than power plants (think: cement manufacturers and refineries).

"To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we must accelerate our efforts to capture and store carbon in a safe and cost-effective way," Chu said in delivering far more than a lump of coal to the coal industry. This funding will "help position the United States to lead the world in CCS technologies, which will be in increasing demand in the years ahead."

Chu also announced that Ramgen Power Systems in Bellevue, Wash., is set to receive $20 million to scale up its CO2 compression technology and that the Cholla Power Plant near Holbrook, Ariz., is slated to receive $70 million-plus to expand its coal gasification system. The remaining $50 million will fund a study of 10 possible geologic formations for long-term CO2 storage.

Image: DoE