Wednesday, June 13, 2007

more expensive and twice the CO2

The U.S. government is considering funding research into "coal to liquid" (otherwise referred to as CTL or gasified coal) as an alternative fuel source. Using it as a gasoline substitute seems ridiculous to me. Just say no to gasified coal as a gasoline substitute. I'm not sure that using instead of coal in power plants is much better, but at least in that context emissions can be more effectively filtered.

Of course, the best way to reduce dependence on foreign oil is to significantly reduce energy consumption. Driving less, driving a more fuel efficient vehicle, riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, using compact fluorescent bulbs, recycling (especially metal products), using a fan instead of air conditioning, using Energy Star appliances instead of less efficient ones - all of the measures can help the big picture.

I wrote to Senator Barack Obama and others to voice my opposition to gasified coal. Here is his response:

Thank you for advising me of your concern about the economic and environmental consequences of converting coal to liquids (CTL) for use as a motor fuel. Like you, I oppose the Inhofe amendment to S. 4.

Concern has been expressed that the “coal to liquid” process will pump more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, and that making gasoline or diesel out of coal will emit more CO2 than traditional gasoline or diesel, thereby exacerbating the current problem of global warming. Others suggest that a CTL industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs, significantly cut oil imports, and reduce energy costs. They point to a study by the Southern States Energy Board, a group comprised of lawmakers from Southern states and industry representatives. That study maintains that by 2030 CTL could replace 30 percent of the oil imported to the United States.

Reducing our country's dependence on imported oil is critical to our long term national and economic security. I am convinced this goal can be achieved without sacrificing other important national priorities such as preserving our environment and addressing climate change. Therefore, I am willing to consider CTL technology if it can be demonstrated that it will not hurt the critical imperative of combating global warming. My objective is to explore whether it is technologically feasible to convert coal to fuel in a process with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions as low or lower than emissions from the lifecycle use of gasoline or diesel. That question needs to be answered before a decision is made to authorize government support for CTL projects. For that reason, I offered an amendment to the FY08 budget resolution to provide $200 million to fund research into the feasibility of capturing carbon released from the burning of coal. I am pleased that this amendment passed the Senate.

Again, thank you for writing. Please stay in touch as this important debate continues.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

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