Yes, the country is dangerously addicted to oil, which threatens our security and our environmental well-being. But coal-to-liquids (CTL), the Fischer-Tropsch process, is not the answer, as Climate Progress has argued previously. It is just too dirty.
Unfortunately, as a recent New York Times article trumpeted: Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process. The piece has an excellent figure showing why cellulosic ethanol and electricity are much better transportation fuels:
CTL diesel has twice the greenhouse gas emissions as regular diesel, unless you capture and store the carbon dioxide — and even then, CTL still isn’t cleaner.
But no CTL plant currently captures and stores the carbon dioxide and few are likely to do so any time soon — because the process is already wildly expensive. You need to spend a stunning $4.5 billion dollars just for a 50,000-barrel-a-day facility without CO2 storage, as detailed in a new Energy Department Report. And the U.S. uses more than 20 million barrels of oil a day.
So what is Congress contemplating?
- loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion
- a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020
- automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel, and
- permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.
These are all dreadful ideas–subsidizing global warming. So why is Congress pursuing this?
Coal companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying on the issue, and have marshaled allies in organized labor, the Air Force and fuel-burning industries like the airlines. Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, urged in a recent advertising campaign that people “imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East.”
Imagine a world with 20 feet higher sea level rise thanks in part to government subsidies to polluters. No thank you!