There’s only one energy source dirtier than coal-fired power plants and the oilsands: coal to liquid fuel. And today in Kentucky plans were announced for a $4 billion coal to liquid fuel plant.
The idea of converting coal to liquid fuel (known as coal-to-liquids or CTL) is not new.
In fact, the technology was developed in Nazi Germany during the 1930s to fill Hitler’s army vehicles with synthetic fuel derived from coal, since the country had lots of coal but no petroleum of its own.
The use of coal as a fuel for motor vehicles was further perfected by the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Suffice it to say, converting coal to liquid fuel has only been done in the most desperate of times.
The United States hasn’t placed much emphasis on coal to liquids in the past, due to our heavy reliance on petroleum products for transportation fuels. But as oil prices climb, along with gas prices at the pump, the idea of making motor fuels out of domestic coal has been advocated as a solution to our dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Beyond the obvious implications of increased coal mining and hazardous pollution 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.
Furthermore, as NRDC points 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.”
Organizers say the plant will be environmentally friendly and use clean coal technology.
“We have to breathe the air like anyone else, and we don’t want to do anything to the ozone. We don’t want do damage it,” says Rutherford.
I won’t hold my breath.