Joe Romm testified at yesterday's congressional hearing before the House Science & Technology Committee
on the issue of Coal-to-Liquid, a.k.a. CTL, fuel. He reports being pleasantly surprised
by the opening statement by Republican Bob Ingliss of South Carolina, who said:
I'm concerned that we may be headed down the wrong track here in gasifying coal for transportation use. Instead of finding a different way to burn coal out of a different pipe (car exhaust instead of a factory smokestack), there's an opportunity to chart a new path. By encouraging Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology, we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil by utilizing our coal resource. We can address climate concerns by capturing and sequestering nearly all of the carbon emissions. Finally, from that coal, we can produce clean energy -- electricity and hydrogen that can fuel plug-in and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
As Romm, a former Energy Department staffer and author of Hell and High Water
, says, "Other than the hydrogen part, he is dead on." And, he says, another Republican -- Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland -- was even harder on CTL. Not surprisingly, coal boosters like to tout CTL as a green-sounding "alternative fuel," and frame it in terms of American energy independence, but as my colleague Paul Rauber notes in Sierra
, it's just a "brazen attempt to put lipstick on a pig
." He writes:
CTL is the dirtiest way to fuel a vehicle, generating twice the greenhouse-gas emissions of gasoline. A Prius run on CTL would produce almost as much carbon dioxide as a gas-fueled Hummer. Even in the best scenario, in which expensive and as-yet unproven technologies are employed to capture and store the resulting CO2 when the coal is liquefied, CTL's greenhouse-gas tally would still be 4 percent higher than gasoline's.