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Filling Your Tank With… Coal

In generally animated and vast-ranging testimony earlier than the Senate Vitality and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday morning, witnesses and lawmakers debated the relative deserves of putting coal within the nation’s gasoline tanks.

Mesh corrugated“I believe that coal is America’s most inexpensive, obtainable, reliable and safe source of power,” declared Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), whose personal coal-friendly American Various Fuels Act of 2011, introduced two weeks in the past, was on the committee’s morning agenda. “And utilizing America’s coal assets as a transportation gasoline will lower our dependence on international sources of oil and really strengthen our national safety.”

Turning coal petroleum refining william leffler pdf word into a liquid fuel is a Iran hot topic. The coal industry, backed by pleasant Republicans in Congress, is pushing a collection of payments that will give liquified coal fuels, which can be used as substitutes for oil, a foothold within the marketplace. One invoice, floated in the Home final month, would literally require that liquid gasoline squeezed from coal be blended, in rising quantities, instantly into the nation’s aviation, motorized vehicle, home heating and boiler gas over coming a long time.

Some analysts say that if accomplished correctly, and with the proper regulatory and environmental protections, such fuels could have a job to play in a diversified home power combine.

But critics argue that the necessary environmental protections do not actually exist, and that turning to coal for any contemporary purpose, relatively than working wholeheartedly to go away the stuff forever in the bottom, merely does not make sense. They say the push to turn coal into liquid fuels is a cynical ploy by a dying and desperate industry, and, furthermore, one which depends on Nazi-period technology that has no redeeming social or environmental characteristics worthy of recent public funding.

“We need to ship the signal that the new fuels we start to commercialize can’t cause extra issues than they fix,” mentioned Brian Siu, a coverage analyst with the Pure Sources Protection Counsel who offered testimony earlier than a Senate subcommittee on the issue Tuesday, in an interview with The Huffington Publish. “Why should we be be helping a know-how to get of the ground that’s vastly worse for the environment and for the local weather than we have already got at present “

A new PUSH FOR AN Previous Technology
Whether coal-to-liquid fuels, as they are known within the business, are vastly worse, somewhat worse, on par with or — in some functions — marginally better for the local weather or the setting than different fuels is determined by a bunch of variables. These embody how the coal was mined, whether or not the coal is being combined with another feedstock — forest trimmings, say, or grass — whether or not or not the carbon dioxide is being captured and saved when the stuff is burned, and, after all, the alternate options to which it’s being compared.

But no matter benefits its supporters could conjure, there’s little query that the historical narrative resulting in coal’s eventual refinement into liquid gasoline is characterized by desperation greater than inspiration.

The most common chemical process for creating artificial fuels, known because the Fischer-Tropsch process, was developed in Germany in the early part of the 20th century. Nazis used it to transform pure gas and coal into liquid diesel to keep their tanks running as typical fuel provide traces were blocked. The expertise later migrated to South Africa, which, upon finding itself severed from world oil provides during boycotts of its apartheid policies, relied closely on coal-to-liquids for its transportation sector.

But these sorts of conversions are neither low cost nor clear, utilizing copious quantities of water and vitality — and sending up vital amounts of greenhouse gasoline emissions in the method — to render a useable liquid gasoline. In line with the World Coal Association, South Africa, which has been producing the stuff in industrial portions for the reason that 1950s, was long the only person of coal-to-liquids at a commercial scale, though it has currently been joined by China.

For many of the world, there have simply been simpler, cheaper — and cleaner — methods to acquire transport gas, at the least till now.

There are at present no facilities producing business amounts of liquid gasoline from coal in the United States, in accordance with Nicholas Paduano, an energy economist at the U.S. Department of Power (D.O.E.), though several plants are in various phases of planning and development. This includes a $four billion coal-to-gasoline facility in Mingo County, W.Va. that held a groundbreaking ceremony early last month.

One other coal-to-liquids undertaking, Medicine Bow Gas & Energy in Wyoming, is under consideration for a federal loan assure from the Department of Energy. Headed up by a number of former Enron executives, the venture not too long ago won a favorable ruling from Wyoming Supreme Courtroom, which upheld its air quality permit after a challenge from the Sierra Membership.

A a lot-anticipated plant slated for japanese Ohio has lately been struggling with monetary woes.
Environmental groups within the U.S. in the meantime, have been mounting more and more pitched campaigns to head-off what they see as attempts by the coal trade to realize a beachhead in a completely new market. They do not buy the argument that, underneath that right circumstances, liquified coal may be thought of a clear alternative gas option.

“The issue is the claims for liquid coal don’t always match up with the truth,” mentioned Alex Moore, an activist with the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “They are saying if you happen to sequester and retailer all of the carbon emissions that the footprint can be just like conventional gasoline, or that if they use some combination of biofuel with liquified coal the affect would be comparable, however it typically looks loads like fudging the numbers. And in any case, it hides all the opposite environmental impacts associated with mining, heavy water use, ecosystem destruction.”

If that’s true, it’s a failure of authorities and a failure of regulation, said James T. Bartis, a scientist and coverage analyst with the RAND Company. Bartis, who was available Tuesday to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has carried out a number of studies on the relative deserves of coal-to-liquids and different unconventional fossil fuels and come to the conclusion that they get an undeserved bad rap.

“U.S. federal energy insurance policies give very little support to any alternative gas produced from coal or, for that matter, another fossil power supply,” Bartis instructed the Senate committee on Tuesday. “In doing so, we forego the chance to develop a home industry that has the potential to supply thousands and thousands of barrels per day of different fuels that may scale back dependence on imported oil whereas not growing greenhouse gasoline emissions.”

In a separate phone name with The Huffington Submit, Bartis prompt that federal energy coverage had too heavily favored renewable fuels that aren’t nearly prepared for commercial-scale manufacturing, and that providing some help for coal-to-liquids is smart economically.

“The policies we have now right this moment are very partial to solely a very small a part of the chance before us,” Bartis mentioned.

When it comes to greenhouse gasoline emissions, the straightforward tale of the tape reveals coal-to-liquids to be in fairly grim territory. Produced without any kind of mechanism to capture and retailer emissions, greenhouse gasses arising from coal-to-liquids production are greater than one hundred percent larger than conventional petroleum gas, in keeping with estimates compiled by the Environmental Protection Company.

With carbon capture and sequestration, the agency puts emissions of coal-to-liquids at about 4 % higher than — or roughly on par with — petroleum-primarily based fuels. A D.O.E. study from 2009 means that the emissions could be slightly under that of petroleum.

Bartis and others say these emissions variations will be lowered even additional — to close to zero, in truth — by constructing plants that mix each coal and biomass. “Whether this know-how will reach its potential depends crucially on gaining early manufacturing experience — together with production with carbon seize and sequestration — within the United States,” Bartis noted in his written testimony Tuesday. “To our information, no company of the U.S. authorities has announced plans to promote early business use of [such] fuels derived from a mixture of coal and biomass.”

A part of the explanation the federal government hasn’t gotten behind that effort is just financial. Highly refined products like liquified coal make no sense when oil is low-cost. As oil costs rise, however, unconventional and pricier sources turn out to be extra engaging. A latest D.O.E. evaluation reckoned that coal-to-liquids can be economic when crude oil costs are at or above $86 a barrel. A nine-to-one coal-biomass mix would make sense when oil was at $93 a barrel, in keeping with the same report, with fewer emissions.

The worth for a barrel of crude stays in the $100 vary right this moment.
But environmental teams argue that such blunt economics fail to capture the total trade-offs related to nurturing a new marketplace for coal.

In response to a report from the National Research Council, for instance, vital increases in coal mining can be needed to satisfy a concerted foray into the transportation sector. “If coal mining actions in the U.S. enhance by 50 % — an additional 580 million tons of coal mined every year,” that report concluded, “up to 3 million barrels of gas per day could be produced. To achieve this, two or three new coal-to-gas plants would have to be constructed each year over the following 20 years.”

Such large increases in mining exercise would include all manner of ancillary costs to communities, critics level out — from local water contamination to habitat destruction.

And environmental advocates like Brian Siu add that there are no rules in place to ensure that any of the most effective-practices the business says can make coal-to-liquids a viable various fuel from a local petroleum refining william leffler pdf word weather perspective — from carbon capture technologies to biomass blending — will actually be deployed.

“We have no sort of economy-vast carbon limitations, nothing that is been adopted by Congress,” Siu stated. And till one thing like that comes along, he mentioned, what’s to make sure that plant homeowners will hassle with the added expense

Supporters of coal-to-liquids say a sort of green-chauvinism has trickled into federal policy, and so they’ve currently zeroed in on what they see as a particularly nettlesome barrier tucked into the Power Independence and Safety Act of 2007.

Signed by President George W. Bush just previous to leaving workplace, the legislation included, amid a wide range of other efficiency and vitality performance standards for vehicles and buildings and lightbulbs, a seemingly innocuous procurement provision geared toward greening the federal car fleet.

However that provision, referred to as Section 526, instantly stuck within the craw of the fossil fuel industries — and perhaps none so much because the coal business. Section 526 essentially forbids federal agencies — together with the fuel-thirsty army — from entering into contracts to purchase alternative or synthetic fuels which have an even bigger greenhouse gas footprint than typical petroleum-primarily based gasoline.

Supporters of the supply see it as being expertise impartial. Experiment with different fuels, the rule seems to suggest — simply don’t use anything that could be worse for the climate than what we already have.

Opponents of the availability say it discriminates in opposition to tricked-out coal and other unconventional fossil fuels, together with oil culled from the tar sands of Alberta.

The stakes are larger than they may seem. Although accounting for less than 2 % of the nation’s whole consumption of 19 million barrels a day, the federal authorities and navy can present an vital pre-commercial incubator for experimental fuels.

Environmental advocates need those alt-fuel contracts to be the only province of climate-pleasant stuff derived from the likes of algae and switchgrass.

The coal business says such provisions are unfair, and Barrasso’s invoice is hardly alone in making an attempt to undo them. The coal-to-liquids lobby, for instance, received renewal of a key tax credit as part of the broad federal tax lower package deal passed in December.

One other measure, launched in the Home final month, goes beyond the federal vehicle fleet, requiring that liquified coal be blended in growing amounts straight into the nation’s aviation, motorcar, dwelling heating and boiler gasoline stock.

The extra comprehensive Roadmap for America’s Vitality Future, sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-Calif.), and now being reviewed by the House Power and Commerce Subcommittee, goes even further, requiring the Protection Division to “develop, construct, and function a professional coal-to-liquid facility.”

Section 526 is also currently targeted in the Home model of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is scheduled for markup on June thirteen — although it’s price noting that not less than one branch of the navy wants nothing to do with liquified coal fuels.

And this is admittedly what troubles environmentalists most about the present tenor of the debate on Capitol Hill: The coal foyer and its supporters in Congress seem be contradicting themselves — significantly in taking aim at provisions like 526. Coal-to-liquids supporters, after all, argue that the know-how, if executed correctly, needs to be no worse — and perhaps even marginally higher from a greenhouse gasoline perspective — than plain previous petroleum-based gasoline.

But when that is the case, why ought to provisions like Part 526, which favors no particular technology and only stipulates that an alternative fuel be no worse than oil, be thought-about a barrier to liquified coal

In response to an e-mail question from a reporter for clarification on this level, Emily Lawrimore, a spokeswoman for Sen. Barrasso, pointed to testimony given by Bartis. “As Dr.