This is a rather scholarly and scientifically minded group, and as a sometimes crude journalist with a populist streak I sometimes feel a little bit diffident about posting comments and responses in here.
But I think group members, especially those who are convinced of the folly of continuing fossil fuel development in light of current climate trends, ought to be aware that the world economy may soon be "enriched" by the presence of something that is likely to have even more severe impacts than conventional fossil fuels.
The new and unwelcome addition to already destructive fossil fuel development is going to be "coal to liquid" fuels, sponsored by private corporations and governments that see in these fuels a viable alternative to costly petroleum.
Thanks to efforts underway right now in China and India, apparently with the approval of the governments there, and also thanks to a political compaign underway in the US that apparently has the backing of Appalachian congressmen as well as the Pentagon, the Department of Energy and the municipal borough of Fairbanks, Alaska, the world might witness the early development of three separate "coal to fuel" industries by the end of 2008.
The negative environmental consequences of these three new national industries could be disastrous, in the view of many energy observers.
I've taken the liberty of including below a somewhat crude and hasty amalgam of media reports on "coal to energy" efforts that I've taken off the web in the last day.
I don't know if Global Change would be interested in posting it on your site, and I can't pretend that I am much of an expert on the issues behind the media clips.
But I think the issue is an important one, and I hope you'll consider posting what I've written:
China plant to begin coal-to-liquid production
By Rick Stouffer
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
One of the world's largest coal producers will finish construction this year of the first coal-to-liquid plant built in 40 years -- but the $1.5 billion project isn't located in America -- it's in China.
The Shenhua Group will begin producing diesel fuel from coal later this year at the facility, located in Inner Mongolia, about 375 miles west of Beijing. The plant will convert coal into some 22,000 barrels of crude oil-like liquid per day, of which 70 percent will be pure diesel fuel.
Shenhua is years ahead of U.S. coal-to-liquid proponents, yet it still took the company 10 years to move from planning to production.
"China is not talking about coal-to-liquid -- it's doing," said Qingyun Sun, associate director of the U.S.-ChinaEnergyCenter at West VirginiaUniversity
Sun addressed 60 attendees to CTLtec Americas 2008, a two-day coal-to-liquid conference sponsored by Singapore-based Centre for Management Technology.
The conference began Monday and continues today at Downtown's Omni William Penn Hotel.
"The Shenhua project is one of seven coal-to-liquid demonstration plants currently being developed in Western China, at a cost of some $12 billion," Sun said. Three facilities are Shenhua projects.
Sun listed the reasons why China is so heavily involved in coal-to-liquid, and those reasons, ironically, sound much like those offered by proponents in the United States.
The coal-to-liquid push is due to China's desire to be energy secure, to be able to use its most abundant fuel in an environmentally clean way, and due to logistical problems in trying to move coal around the country to where it's needed.
Peabody Coal Senior Vice President Fredrick D. Palmer said coal will be the basis for a new industrial revolution, likening it to the nation's first industrial revolution of the mid 19th century, in what's needed to satisfy future energy needs.
"Economic growth requires a new energy industry revolution, with trillions of dollars and millions of jobs invested in new coal power plants, coal-to-liquid and coal gasification, oil and natural gas, oil sands, nuclear plants, carbon sequestration, gas-to-liquid, oil shale and enhanced oil recovery processes," Palmer said
Govt gives coal-to-petrol plan a push
Shaleen Agrawal/ DNA MONEY
Saturday, 21 June , 2008, 08:39
For SIFY Business, India
New Delhi: The Union coal ministry has invited applications for allocations of captive blocks for converting coal into liquid fuel like petrol, diesel and others.
The coal reserves of about 1-1.5 billion tonnes will be made available for producing oil and oil products, the ministry said on its website.
“The blockcluster of blocks should enable mining operations of 28-31 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal per annum for 30 years,” the ministry said.
Coal liquefaction and underground coal gasification were allowed as permissible end uses for allocation of captive blocks in August last year, a government official said.
“While we have invited applications to allocate coal blocks for coal-to-liquid (CTL) projects, the blocks for coal gasification projects are yet to be identified,” the official said.
The government has also constituted an inter-ministerial group to examine the proposals received for allocation of captive coal blocks to CTL projects. The group has representations from Planning Commission, ministries of finance, coal, commerce, petroleum and natural gas, and others.
· SNIP *
For the rest of the story, click here:
C. Coal to Liquid Fuels in the USA:
1. From West Virginia Media – The State Journal
Story indicating that US House of Representatives has passed reauthorization of
Funds for Appalachian Regional Commission – including funds that the ARC
Could use to foster “coal to liquid fuel” developments
2. From “Go Blue Ridge.net.”
Foxx presses Congress to Vote on Coal-to-Liquid Bill
Written by Adam Hicks
Friday, July 11 2008
With sky-high gas prices, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx wants to turn coal into diesel fuel.
Foxx called on Congress to bring coal-to-liquid legislation to the House floor for a vote on Thursday. She pressed members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle to allow debate on a bipartisan bill (H.R. 2208) that creates incentives for the production of diesel fuel from coal.
Foxx said, “America has a 250 year supply of coal. We should be doing all we can to find a way to transform this abundant energy resource into clean burning diesel. This legislation will jumpstart the debate on coal-to-liquid technology and would encourage new investment in a promising source of American-made energy.”
Foxx joined over 100 members of the House of Representatives who signed onto a measure that would bring the Coal Liquid Fuel Act up for a vote. The request needs 218 Congressional signatures in order to get the Coal Liquid Fuel Act onto the House floor for debate.
· * * *
3. From WYMT News – Eastern Kentucky
Coal To Liquid Fuel Study To Be Released
Posted: 5:28 PM Jul 13, 2008
Last Updated: 5:28 PM Jul 13, 2008
Officials in one eastern Kentucky county say they are ready to tell the world they have the answer to the country's energy crisis.
PikeCounty officials say they are excited to release their findings from a year long coal to liquid fuel study.
There's a news conference Monday and officials say they hope this is the first step towards stabilizing the coal industry and the local economy.
For the full radio story, click here:
4. From the Huffington Post, Blogger Kevin Grandia
Posted July 15, 2008 | 02:58 PM (EST)
Read More: Big Coal, Clean Coal, Climate Change, Coal, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Kentucky Coal, Green News
An announcement today for plans to construct a $4 billion coal to liquid fuel facility in Kentucky is a sign of the desperate times America is in.
Converting coal to liquid fuel has not been used on a large scale since the 1930's when Nazi Germany developed the technology because the country had lots of coal but no petroleum of its own.
But the sell-job is well underway right now in Kentucky to re-frame coal to liquid as a miracle answer to America's energy woes.
One proponent of the Kentucky project went so far as to state that:
"(This) will allow the United States to become energy independent and free of foreign oil, and money going overseas can actually be invested back in the United States."
In the same vein is this quote from a local Kentucky newspaper:
The coal industry and its supporters say such efforts could help wean the nation from its reliance on foreign oil for transportation. They insist that the technology would strengthen national security and be cheaper than petroleum.
The United States currently burns through about 20 million barrels of oil a day. The Kentucky coal to liquid plant is projected to produce 50,000 barrels a day -- a far cry from the grand promise of energy independence. Pardon my rough math (and love of simply stated facts) but based on the coal to liquid model being proposed in Kentucky, we would need to build at
least 120 such projects to produce 6 million barrels of oil a day -- at a start-up cost for all the plants of around $480 billion.
Doesn't look like much of a silver bullet to me.
And then there's the costs to our environment -- the one we'll passing on to our children.
No amount of words will make the processing of coal into a liquid fuel clean.
But that hasn't stopped Kentucky project cheerleaders, like Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford from trying:
"Our goal is to not put anything out in the ozone," Rutherford said. "We know there is no concept in this world right now that does that, but there's a lot of research going on."
And this in the local newspaper:
"... they are committed to having a plant that is as environmentally conscious as possible. They say they will choose a company that is also environmentally friendly."
Not much assurance when you consider that we have yet to be able to make regular-old coal-fired electric plants environmentally friendly. Now we are to somehow think that an even dirtier process like coal to liquid will somehow turn into a green, clean energy machine?
Beyond the obvious implications of increased mountaintop removal coal mining and hazardous pollution (like the ever-increasing amounts of mercury being pumped into the air) that would result from a coal-to-liquids scheme, using liquid coal as a transportation fuel would nearly double the amount of global warming pollution per gallon of fuel compared to petroleum.
At a time when the world's leading scientists say we need to cut our emissions by at least 80 percent to curtail destructive climate change, the idea of nearly doubling global warming pollution from liquid coal fuels ought to be tossed aside as a no-brainer.
As the folks at the Natural Resource Defense Council (turn your speakers down, an auto-play video starts when you click) point out, "it would be the height of folly to invest in just another technology that drives us further down the path to dependency on carbon fuels."
5. And a story of Pentagon involvement in a “Synfuel” or Coal-to-Liquid Fuel
Scheme planned for Fairbanks, Alaska:
Funding biomass fuels may be a hurdle
Published Saturday, July 19, 2008
FAIRBANKS — Proponents of a plant that would make liquid fuels out of coal say such a facility could be the solution to high energy costs in Fairbanks and Interior villages.
However, a financial specialist warned that private-sector financing will be hard to find without some government assistance, either as cash, loan guarantees or off-take agreements.
The borough and Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation have proposed building a plant that would produce between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels of liquid fuel a day from coal and biomass — a plant that would probably cost at least several billion dollars.
High-ranking officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force, as well as more local players, gathered Friday in Fairbanks to discuss how to fast-track a biomass and coal-to-liquids facility. They heard from seven speakers representing pieces of the project.
While the gasification and coal-to-liquids technologies are well-established, few companies have experience building and operating the facilities, said Radoslav Shipkoff, director of Greengate LLC, which provides financial advisory services in energy and infrastructure sectors worldwide. That increases financial risk for investors, who prefer supporting projects built by companies that can offer performance guarantees.
Project advocates are looking to the U.S. Air Force for some financial backing in the form of off-take agreements, or commitments to purchase fuel produced by the plant. General Howie Chandler, Commander of Pacific Air Forces, attended the summit.
“We are the largest user of energy in the Department of Defense,” Chandler said.
The bill totaled $6 billion last year for jet fuel, $12.5 million of which was at Eielson. And that, he added, was at $2.20 a gallon.
“For that reason, we’re interested in conservation, and we’re interested in new ideas,” he explained.
Kevin Billings, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for energy and the environment, said the Air Force has committed to certify its entire fleet to fly on a synthetic fuel blend — and, once that happens, to buy 400 million gallons of synfuel annually.
“The project here would be a huge part of making that happen, and in making us much more energy secure in the United States,” he said.
For the rest of the article, click here: