In his grandiloquent style, Rudd promised $400 million to a new not-for-profit company, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which would get CCS up and running at home and also "lead the world".
To June 2012, more than $235 million has been delivered to the institute, $122 million of it already spent and another $113 million in its bank account, beyond the reach of Treasury's razor, information provided at a Senate estimates hearing reveals.
Treasury managed to claw back more than $80 million of the promised $400 million before it was handed over. Only about $80 million remains to be paid over the next five years.
The institute has 78 staff, including nine permanent employees overseas - two in Washington, three in Tokyo and four in Paris. Former senior employees say its first chief executive, the British businessman Nick Otter, was paid well over $500,000 a year - more than the Prime Minister.
The first members' meeting was in Canberra, where the institute is based, in early 2009. But its second, in November 2009, attended by more than 15 Australia-based staff, was in the luxurious ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel in Paris, opposite the Paris Opera and decorated in similar ornate style.
Both industry sources and former staff concede the jaw-dropping opulence sent "all the wrong messages" to the 180 members who attended.
"The spending was very difficult to justify," said one former employee.
And it did not end in Paris. In 2010 when they met in Kyoto, they enjoyed a dinner cooked by a celebrity Iron Chef ( the institute says his services were thrown in for no extra charge by the hotel).
Documents released under freedom of information show a staggering $54,257,000 was spent on "operational expenses" in the first two years.
The spending began before the institute even existed. Rudd - who decided at a G8 meeting in Japan in 2008 that the success of CCS was vital to Australia's interest - set it up on advice from Boston Consulting, rather than the public service, at a cost of $1.5 million. By September 2008, he summoned business leaders to Canberra for a 30-minute presentation unveiling his plan.
Many were nonplussed, unsure about its aims or how it would be different from the CO2 co-operative research centre set up under the Howard government ( with almost $50 million in federal funds), Dick Wells's National Low Emissions Coal Council ($400 million in federal funding) or another international body set up by the US, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.
''I still have no real idea how it will work or what it will do," one chief executive said at the time.
But the public service was already doling out $65 million to future institute "partners", including $21 million to the Asian Development Bank, almost $20 million to the International Energy Agency, $10 million to the Clinton Foundation headed by the former US president, and a grant to a body called the Climate Group to "advance" CCS. The Sun-Herald understands there is deep concern about what Australia is achieving from these contracts.
The institute was soon seeking global members and now boasts more than 300, including foreign governments, corporations, industry organisations and research bodies. There was no reason not to sign up. There is no joining fee.
In July 2009, the grand idea was paraded on the international stage, its reannouncement the key initiative at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. It was a heady moment for the Australian prime minister, who shared the podium with the US President, Barack Obama, the leaders of the developed world listening behind him.
At the time, Australia's $400 million was termed "seed funding" with hundreds of millions from other governments also anticipated. But it took years for the US government to come good with $1 million and the European Union has only this year contributed €3 million ($3.8 million) for the institute to take over work it had previously contracted elsewhere.
Its advisory panel included the world's best and brightest, among them former World Bank boss James Wolfensohn and influential climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern. Wolfensohn has since left.
Despite all its money, it took the institute some time to clarify exactly what it would do to meet its ambitious brief. At its inception, a spokesman for Rudd said the institute would not "actually fund demonstration projects overseas" but would "provide expertise … and research".
However, in its first report to the Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, revealed under freedom-of-information laws, the institute said it was planning to "make approximately $50 million per annum available to support a substantial portfolio of CCS projects around the world''.
And in a letter to Ferguson in February 2010, institute chairman Russell Higgins wrote proudly that the initial offer to support international projects received an "extremely encouraging" response. The institute had received requests from overseas projects asking for a total of $500 million of Australia's money. So far, the institute has spent $37 million on projects, mostly overseas. Several have failed. Only about $6 million has been spent on projects in Australia.
And that is Rudd's fatal flaw. The lure of celebrity is irresistible to him. He had no hope of resisting the Clintons.