June 16, 2007

Kentucky.com | 06/15/2007 | Liquid coal wrong basis for state energy policy

A good argument against using coal to create liquid fuels (and thereby increase mountaintop removal as well as pollution across the board)

Kentucky.com | 06/15/2007 | Liquid coal wrong basis for state energy policy: "It is generally acknowledged in business circles that a mandatory cap-and-trade program for reducing CO2 emissions will be adopted by Congress within the next 10 years. Yet Kentucky is poised to move forward not with a plan to invest in low-carbon energy strategies, but instead to subsidize coal-to-liquid production plants that produce almost twice the CO2 emissions per gallon of fuel than conventional petroleum-derived fuels.

A 2007 National Energy Technology Laboratory study found a commercial scale coal-to-liquid plant is feasible at a price tag of $4.53 billion, but it did not factor in how or where to dispose of the 32,000 tons per day of CO2 that the process would generate.

Until applied research demonstrates that the CO2 captured can be managed to produce zero additional atmospheric CO2 emissions, the coal-to-liquid process and resulting fuel is not a solution that provides any degree of real independence.

Why should the public --rather than the shareholders of the private coal, energy and banking interests -- bear the costs of underwriting a coal-to-liquid plant, when the capture and sequestration of CO2, which is the central issue of public importance, is not resolved?

A different path exists. Kentucky is well positioned to expand the production and use of hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as to encourage research and development of new fuels.

Making ethanol from switchgrass is a promising method of producing biofuel using less fertilizer and pesticides, causing less soil erosion and producing more ethanol per acre than corn while using less petroleum energy.

In a marketplace where it is uncertain what the face of transportation and the manner of propulsion of vehicles will be in 10 or 20 years, it is far wiser to invest in research and development for an array of low-emission vehicles and fuels that make us less, rather than more, reliant on fossil fuels.

Some refined variant of coal-to-liquids may be part of the energy future if the process can be made more efficient and carbon capture and disposition can be achieved. Investment in research and development for those aspects of coal-to-liquid fuel, as part of a larger, balanced portfolio of investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, is a more prudent course than underwriting the commercial deployment of the current coal-to-liquid technology that provides neither efficiency nor a carbon solution."

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