Putting coal in the gas tank?

Written by Japhet

Topics: Coal

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Don’t look now, but its looking like coal could be coming to a pump near you.

Coal-to-liquids (CTL) fuels will emit almost double the CO2 that normal gasoline does. Yet, the technology is gaining lots of support in Congress as a “renewable” energy fuel source. How is this happening? Lobbying. The National Mining Association has ramped up efforts to bring CTL to our country’s leaders as a solution to our energy needs. Sadly, politicians are “warming to the idea.”


President Bush said in his State of the Union that America needs to produce 35 billion gallons of “alernative fuel” by 2017. Too bad corn-based ethanol won’t meet half of that goal. So, guess where we’re turning for the a good chunk of it? CTL. More coal, just in a different form. Even Barack Obama, in coal-rich Illinois is welcoming CTL, albeit with some reservations:

Citing energy-security concerns, his bipartisan legislation would grant tax and other subsidies for development of CTL refineries. He also supports separate global-warming legislation that, if passed, would keep carbon emissions from CTL refineries under control, he says. But Obama’s CTL bill does not mandate capture of carbon dioxide.

Obviously, energy security has become the main argument for coal. We have lots of it here under our soil, so why not use it? The problem is its still underneath our “purple mountains majesty” which we turn into flattened, bleeding stumps in order to get at the coal. The problem is when you burn it it emits almost twice as much CO2 as natural gas and 1.5 times as much as oil. The problem is, our national leaders still don’t understand that coal will do more to harm our national security than it will to strengthen our energy security.

CTL is one of many industries that is having a heavy coat of “greenwash” applied to it. Coal itself is in the middle of a multi-million dollar PR makeover. CTL promoters say that the nine new refineries planned will produce “clean fuel” that will produce less nitrous oxides and smog-forming pollutants. However, that technology is not in place and was heavily questioned by a DOE investigation that found a CTL project had failed to deal with the 2.3 million tons of CO2 it would emit annually. Why not? Carbon emissions are never factored into the bottom line.

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