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Montana Governor Stumps for Coal-to-Liquids

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is continuing his campaign for the development of a coal-to-liquids industry—using Montana coal—with the convening of an energy futures symposium next month in Bozeman, Montana.

Working in the governor’s favor is a proposal from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for a Clean Fuel Initiative that would support the development of domestic synthetic fuels with the intention of eventually running its battlefield machinery with them.

The US military currently consumes some 300,000 barrels of transportation fuel per day—75% of which is produced in US refineries.

Coal Resources
Barrels Oil Equivalent
StateBarrels (Billion)
Source: Office of Secretary of Defense
W. Virginia70
New Mexico25
N. Dakota20

Viewing coal resources on the basis of the potential for producing Fischer-Tropsch barrels of oil, Montana is second in the country behind Tennessee, according to a DoD analysis.

With 120 billion tons of coal in the ground, Montana is as well suited to make synfuels as any state in America. This is why over the last several months I have been meeting with top energy executives, scientists and investors to get the ball rolling on a coal-to-liquids fuel complex in eastern Montana.

[...] In the larger context, synfuel production would give America energy independence in the purest sense: American fuel, made on American soil by American workers.

[...] At the same time, we could provide valuable independence to our military, currently the largest single consumer of foreign oil in the country. The Department of Defense, expected to be a key player in the Montana fuel project, needs a fuel supply that is stable, dependable and made in America. Montana can fill this order.

—Governor Brian Schweitzer

The Clean Fuels Initiative has two primary approaches:

  • Total Energy Development Program, to catalyze the commercial production of fuels from alternative resources—i.e., unconventional and synthetic. This is where partnerships with the state governments and energy companies enters the picture.

  • Battlefield Use Future Fuel of the Future (BUFF) Program, to evaluate, demonstrate, certify turbine fuels from alternative energy resources for use in tactical vehicles, aircraft and ships

The latter program has focused a great deal on Fischer-Tropsch fuels, and has amassed some interesting test data. (Such as a 96% reduction at idle, 78% reduction at cruise in PM emissions from jets burning a FT variant of JP-8.)




Montana has a really good Governor -- I know. I live there. I believe he'll get'r'done!

Lance Funston

I think the positioning of coal-to-liquids as a military fuel in the U.S. is an sensible but ironic turn. As a strategic backstop, adapting our core defense systems to work off totally indigenous fuels is a good strategy, especially if things go downhill as oil peaks.

While I think C2L passes the small test of energy independence, it has a couple of problem including the digging up of a lot of landscape, much in national parklands I'm sure, and CO2 emmissions. If the fuel reduces the amount of CO2/BTU of energy compared with burning coal then I would see it as a worthwhile energy tactic.


If all fuels were taxed on carbon content including well-to-tank waste products that could level the playing field. When petroleum is not 50% but 75% depleted some CTL production could still be within greenhouse targets, particularly with electricity cogeneration. If CTL gets a free run then biofuels like ethanol and diesel from biomass FT and esterified fat would be too expensive. Political reality check; the New Zealand government which brought in a carbon tax nearly got thrown out last week.


Montana. Strategic fuel source. Republicans. Can everyone say Teapot Dome.
The DoD plan is one fuel for all planes, ships, trucks and tanks. They probably plan to buy it from a single corporation. Can you guess its name?


If they are serious about going ahead with this, then they ought to be pushing for a certain percentage of BTL. We can goose up the percentage as time goes on.

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