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Coal Town Gets New Light - A small central Illinois town got some big news: It has been chosen as the site to build a 21st Century power plant that advertises itself as virtually emissions free and able to sequester and bury carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.

Misleading headlines are common on energy articles, but I never expected to see one on energybizinsider. But Friday, Mr. Silverstein got caught with his research down.

Mattoon is many things, but coal town isn't one of them. It was a railroad town for most of its 155 years, created when two railroads crossed in the Illinois prairie. It was also an agricultural town, a manufacturing town and, for about three decades, an oil town.

That last designation probably has more than anything else to do with the community's selection for the coal news that Ken was writing about. The now depleted reserves that contributed much to the war effort in the 1940s will provide the reservoirs to sequester the carbon dioxide produced by the proposed clean coal power plant. (And maybe produce a bit more oil. I've seen nothing about this in the many articles I've read on FutureGen, but pumping CO2 into old fields has long been one method of enhancing oil recovery.)

I have to admit a relationship with this central Illinois community -- it’s where I attended high school in the mid-1950s as the oil production was beginning its long decline. There was another flurry of interest in central Illinois oil as prices climbed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I've heard of no similar boost from the price surge of the early 21st century.

When I traveled through Mattoon in the mid-1980s, it was a sad sight indeed. One of the two railroads was gone, adding to the woes of the rust belt then circling the Midwest -- including Mattoon. Farm prices had followed oil prices downward, putting a further damper on the central Illinois economy.

This is when the Lender’s Bagel factory moved to Mattoon. Shortly after this 1986 arrival, the chamber of commerce's history of the town notes, residents began to refer to Mattoon as the “Bagel Capital of the World,” celebrating the popular Bagelfest each summer.

I find it hard to understand this bit of modern day boosterism because the idea of a bagel in Mattoon just does not compute. I doubt if any of my mid-50s classmates could have told you what a bagel was. I know I hadn't heard of this bit of pastry, and I don't remember actually seeing one until the Navy sent me to New York City in the early 60s.

While I'm writing, I have one more nit to pick with Ken's article. While a population of 20,000 plus may be a small town to those living near the major cities of this nation, to most of the communities around Mattoon on the Illinois prairie, it's anything but small.

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