Coal to Liquids - the Fuel from Hell

Momentum is building in the fight against coal. Over the last few months we've seen several U.S. states, for the first time, reject plans for new coal-fired power plants wholly on global warming grounds.

The most recent, that I'm aware of, is in Washington state. Previous victories have been in Florida, Kansas and Texas. This trend will likely snowball. The coal business is under pressure - just as all the inhabitants of our world, human and non-human alike, are all under climate change pressure as a result of our historical reliance on these industries.

The recent news from the Bali summit that the UNFCCC will not yet consider carbon sequestration as a mitigation tool will come as yet another blow. The writing is on the wall for the outdated fossil fuel energy sources we've been clinging to for the last 150 years.

Coal companies are trying to find new ways to appear palatable, however. The latest of which is coal-to-liquids technologies, that seek to fill the void left by our peaking oil supplies. Rather than plug-in electric vehicles, running from free solar energy, the coal industry would like to see its wares used to drive us into the 'future' (what future?) - the environment be damned.

Source: NRDC

This is a technology I cannot imagine will ever get off the ground - pressure on climate issues is now too high - but this is no time to get apathetic! Especially when you figure that the CO2 emissions from running a vehicle from coal-to-liquids is almost double that of a vehicle on regular oil-based petrol.

The total emissions rate for oil and gas fuels is about 27 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon, counting both production and use, while the estimated total emissions from coal-derived fuel is more like 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon -- nearly twice as much. - Move America Beyond Oil

If this 'technology' were ever to make headway, it would mean more mining and an even greater reliance on the yet unproved concept of Carbon Sequestration and Storage (CCS). In fact, it would exacerbate the greatest issue with CCS - the scale at which it needs to be applied:

The hurdles to implementation [of CCS] are largely ones of integration at scale. Current possible scenarios of climate change predict that by 2030, the level of CO2 to be mitigated could be 30 billion tons per year or more. Sequestering [only] 5 billion tons of CO2 each year would entail pumping volumes close to 100 million barrels per day of supercritical CO2 into secure geological formations. - Facing the Hard Truths About Energy, National Petroleum Council, Chapter Three, page 178

Read that last paragraph again, then check out the NRDC site for more details!

Further Reading:

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  • Posted on Dec. 6, 2007. Listed in:

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