Xcel Energy has decided to put construction of a 600 MW IGCC plant in Colorado on hold. According to CEO, President and Chairman of Xcel Dick Kelly, the projected cost of well over $1 billion and the fact that 600 MW was more energy than Colorado needed were the two main stumbling blocks. However, the plant remains a possibility, but 2016 may be a more realistic date. "We're not abandoning IGCC. We are deferring it for a few years," Kelly said.

The announcement sheds more light on the dilemma facing proponents of coal-fired generation in the United States. Traditional coal plants are under attack, as evidenced by the growing list of delayed and cancelled plants. The Xcel plant is further verification that clean coal plants are also struggling due to economics, technology and uncertainty over the regulatory regime for CCS.

That leaves natural gas, we suppose -- but wait, it isn't easy to license a LNG terminal either and good luck trying to get more offshore development any time soon. You could gasify coal to create syngas, but that leads you into the same CCS box -- i.e., industry is ready to go but needs governmental leadership.

Of course, we would be remiss to overlook nuclear, but that industry faces an uphill climb too.

Perhaps we should all go home tonight and turn off the lights -- and claim efficiency-based carbon credits for doing so!