Front Porch Blog

Letter to the Senate – No Coal-to-Liquid Subsidies

I just dug this out of a “pile” of files on my desktop and thought it might be of interest. In June 2007, a group of organizations wrote a letter to the US Senate opposing any subsidies for coal-to-liquid industry expansion.

Appalachian Voices, Earthjustice, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, US Public Interest Research Group, Western Organization of Resource Councils

June 19, 2007

Dear Senator,

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we are writing to express our continued opposition to any mandates or incentives that would promote a coal-to-liquids industry, including loan guarantees, price collars, tax incentives, long term purchasing contracts, or other similar measures. With many options available to address global warming and dependence on oil, we cannot support subsidies for a technology that increases global warming pollution, costs billions in taxpayer dollars, increases coal mining, and uses massive amounts of freshwater.

Global warming is one of the greatest challenges facing the planet today. At a time when leading scientists are calling for significant reductions in global warming pollution, liquid coal produces double the global warming emissions of conventional petroleum fuels. Studies show that even with carbon capture and storage the global warming emissions of liquid coal range from 4% to 25% above our current fuel.

The harmful upstream impacts of creating a liquid coal industry would be significant. Large-scale deployment of coal-to-liquids would exacerbate the devastating effects of coal mining felt in many communities and ecosystems, including polluted air and water and devastated landscapes. Replacing 10% of our petroleum use with liquid coal would require a 43% increase in coal mining. Already the most environmentally destructive mining practice, mountaintop removal mining, has permanently buried more than 1,200 miles of streams and flattened over 500,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountains.

Furthermore, a study released earlier this year by MIT showed that to replace just 10% of our nation’s liquid transportation fuels with liquid coal would require a $70 billion investment. Our nation’s experiment with liquid coal synfuels in the 1980s was a major economic failure that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Now is the time to provide true vision in our nation’s energy policy, not relive the mistakes of the past.

Scientists have warned that we need to reduce global warming pollution 80% by 2050, a doable 2% decrease per year. Reaching this goal will require us to develop and use transportation fuels that have a substantially lower carbon emissions footprint than today’s petroleum-based fuels, not increase our use of dirtier fuels. Every public or private dollar invested in coal-to-liquids is a dollar unavailable for investment in efficient vehicles, improved transportation systems, smart growth and sustainably-made renewable fuels.

For these reasons, we urge you to oppose any liquid coal provisions that would provide mandates, loan guarantees, tax incentives, long term contracts, or any other incentives to jumpstart the industry.


Mary Anne Hitt
Executive Director
Appalachian Voices

Marty Hayden
Legislative Director

Erich Pica
Director, Domestic Campaigns
Friends of the Earth

Edward W. Stowe III
Senior Legislative Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

John Coequyt
Energy Policy Specialist
Greenpeace USA

Michele Boyd
Legislative Director, Energy Program
Public Citizen

Debbie Sease
National Campaigns Director
Sierra Club

Alden Meyer
Director of Strategy and Policy
Union of Concerned Scientists

Anna Aurilio
Director, Washington, DC Office
US Public Interest Research Group

Patrick Sweeney
Regional Director
Western Organization of Resource Councils





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