Right now, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is deciding whether or not to sign a clean energy bill that has been sitting on his desk for over a year. The bill, SB3766, has been the center of passionate controversy, as private citizens and clean energy advocates square off against the Big Coal and Gas Industries.

The twist: Industry wants the bill to pass, while Chicagoans and clean energy advocates want a veto.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Confused? Here’s the explanation for this weird role reversal. The bill, which proposes something cleverly called the “Chicago Clean Energy project” was introduced by Leucadia National Corporation, a New York holding company that, through its subsidiaries, funds coal mining and oil drilling services.

The proposed project is a coal gasification plant to be built on the city’s far southeast side. That’s right, as if coal and natural gas weren’t bad enough on their own, Leucadia has proposed they build a $3 billion plant to burn one in order to make the other, all under the guise of creating clean energy.

The best part: a key element of the bill would allow Leucadia National Corporation to pass along 100 percent of the $3 billion plant construction costs to suburban Chicago and downstate ratepayers. What the bill (and Leucadia) fail to note is that they’ll also be passing on increased pollution to an already heavily contaminated area and helping continue dependence on coal, increasing the environmental effects of coal mining downstate.

Of course, supporters of the plant (most of whom seemed to have been trucked in by Leucadia’s PR company) use the same “jobs and cheap energy” argument that permeates the increasingly outdated fossil fuel industry. It leaves one to wonder: why, if coal and gas are so great, would the company go to such great lengths to brand the project as “clean energy,” a term people associate with solar and wind power? Perhaps it’s because, as The New York Times points out, “there is no assurance the projected savings will materialize, especially since natural gas is abundant nationwide and is currently cheap compared with other energy sources.”

Photo Credit: vxla/Flickr