The New York Times reports on the growing moves to convert coal to oil. The paper points out that the coal in states like Illinois have more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia. The technology to turn that coal into fuel for cars, homes and factories is proven. And at current prices, that process could be at the vanguard of a big, new industry.
However there is a huge catch, as producing fuels from coal generates far more carbon dioxide, than producing vehicle fuels from oil. But that is not stopping business and the US government from moving in that direction.
Rentech Inc., a research-and-development company based in Denver, plans to use an old fertilizer plant to turn coal to truck fuel. Even the car companies are interested. Bill Reinert, from Toyota, argues that turning coal into transport fuel could offer a bright future. “It’s a huge deal,” he says.
In March, the Energy Secretary, Samuel K. Bodman, said in a speech that making diesel fuel or jet fuel from coal was “one of the most exciting areas” of research and could be crucial to the President’s goal of cutting oil imports.
“It’s a potential disaster for the environment if we move in the direction of trying to create a big synfuel program based on coal to run our transportation fleet,” argues Daniel A. Lashof, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In fact the saying “Out of the frying pan into the fire” comes to mind.