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Short Term Solution for America Means Long Term Fix for Appalachia

As both houses of congress debate bills for coal-to-liquid subsidies, environmentalists are beginning to wonder if they’ll find Jimmy Hoffa before congress settles on a renewable energy source. Coal is not renewable, only an alternative, and a dirty one at that.

Scientists across the country say liquid coal will emit twice as much green house gas as current petrol fuels , but companies such as Liquid Coal Inc. and Syntroleum describe their fuel as “ultra-clean.” And despite how innovative and new this process may sound to some, it’s an old process.

Commonly known as the Fischer-Tropsch process, coal has been transformed into liquid fuel since 1923. Even Germans used liquid coal to power their panzers during WWII, while facing an oil embargo. South Africans used liquid coal throughout apartheid and have continued to use the fuel in diesel engines. In fact the world’s largest coal-to-liquid plant is in South Africa. If this were truly a better alternative, wouldn’t we have joined the Germans or South Africans and used coal a long time ago? The United States does produce a little less than one-fifth of the world’s coal according to the Energy Information Administration.

The proposed bills suggest loans for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of fuel sold, and a 25 year contract with the Air Force for coal based jet fuel, among other subsidies that would keep liquid coal more competitive with oil in America.

Liquid Coal Inc. has plans for a plant that would process 15,000 tons of coal a day to make 50,000 barrels of diesel fuel. Out of the daily 15,000 tons, the company’s plan states there will be 3,000 tons of solid residues. Handling the waste and bi-products of the fuel will become a major issue. Furthermore, America uses 9 million barrels of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Using these figures, an attempt to replace gasoline with liquid coal would require 2.7 million tons of coal each day.

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