Even if you disregard the environmental catastrophe that is mountaintop removal, the reasons not to increase the use of coal are numerous. The current popular idea for using coal is convert it to liquid fuel via the Fischer-Tropsch process for use in transportation. Like petroleum, coal is a fossil fuel so burning it or any derivative of it is taking carbon that is trapped in the earth and releasing it into the atmosphere.

While coal to liquid diesel fuel is definitely an alternative fuel, it is most definitely definitely not renewable and absolutely not green. According to the EPA even if coal to liquid production is combined with carbon capture and storage, greenhouse gases will rise by four percent compared to petroleum. Since no one has done a commercial scale coal to liquid plant with carbon capture it is likely that at least early plants will not have it. Without carbon capture, coal to liquid could increase well to tank greenhouse gas emissions by 119% compared to petroleum.

It would appear that the only advantage of coal to liquid technology is the security issue since we have lots of coal. Beyond that it is even more of a boondoggle than corn ethanol.

Update: Hank the EcoGeek has more on this on this story as well.

[Source: New York Times via TreeHugger]


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