Stimulus Funds Give Steam a Boost

Steam plants haven't been en vogue since Thomas Edison's day. But now, they're back in the spotlight thanks to the Obama administration. The Department of Energy just got 106-million dollars worth of stimulus money to fund steam-related projects. Jennifer Guerra takes us back to the future.

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OPEN: Steam plants haven't been en vogue since Thomas Edison's day. But now, they're back in the spotlight thanks to the Obama administration. The Department of Energy just got 106-million dollars worth of stimulus money to fund steam-related projects. Jennifer Guerra takes us back to the future.

You hear that? That's the sound of efficiency.

It's what you get when you combine steam pipes with a giant jet engine.

These steam systems are called combined heat and power, or CHP, and the government wants to see more of them.

Getting energy from coal-burning power plants isn't very efficient. Most CHP systems, on the other hand, use natural gas and are more than 80% efficient.

The DOE says that's like taking 45 million cars off the road.

Neal Elliot is with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

"So whether you're concerned about local air quality or whether you're talking about global climate change gasses, the more efficient the system, the lower the emissions."

And if you're worried about seeing a giant CHP plant pop up in your backyard - don't worry, most CHP systems are underground.

For The Environment Report, I'm Jennifer Guerra.