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Senators Re-Introduce Coal-to-Liquids Legislation

US Senators Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) have re-introduced a piece of legislation that would help create the infrastructure needed for large-scale production of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) fuel in the US.

The proposed “Coal-To-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007” is based on the bill first introduced by Senators Bunning and Obama last spring and expands tax incentives, creates planning assistance, and develops Department of Defense support for a domestic CTL industry.

The Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 enables the Department of Energy to provide loan guarantees for construction and direct loans for the planning and permitting of CTL plants. Loan guarantees will encourage private investment and planning loans will help companies prepare a plant for construction.

This legislation also will expand investment tax credits and expensing provisions to include coal-to-liquids plants, extend the Fuel Excise Tax credit, and expand the credit for equipment used to capture and sequester carbon emissions.

Finally, the bill provides the Department of Defense the funding and authorization to purchase, test, and integrate these fuels into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and military fuel supplies.

The Senators also announced they will form the Senate Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Caucus to help drive the legislation forward.

Both Kentucky and Illinois have massive coal reserves. Obama also sponsored the just-introduced BioFuels Security Act of 2007 that would institute a 60 billion gallon Renewable Fuel Standard by 2030. (Earlier post.)

Comments

allen_Z

_There is a silver lining if many CTL plants (expensive) come online. These large companies have the means to invest in these capital intensive facilities. It also solves the chicken and egg problem of whether to finance/build the conversion plants first, or biomass production. Once algae biomass production is up and running, it will need facilities to process it. In short, these CTL plants could be converted to BTL plants. Excess waste heat could be exploited to dry the algae. Afterwards, the lipids/oils could be separated, then processes. They could make SVO, or biodiesel, or a 2nd Gen biofuel like NExBTL from these fats. The F-T (or other conversion process) could then turn leftovers into other chemicals (fuels). It may make old coal/electric companies into green ones, based on clean renewables, not fossil energy.

t

The preponderance of "support our troops" stickers are on SUVs. The people who display their socalled patriotism the loudest are also those who drive the big kahunas which suck up most of the oil which supports the Saudis who funnel money to the terrorists.

So, instead of making conservation our number one priority and switching to a car fleet which could cut our consumption in half or more, we come up with these schemes to perpetuate the notion that our desires for automotive fuel should be unlimited and not in any way constrained by the natural resources available to us.

Forget all this talk about sequestration and algae. It ain't gonna happen. We will sacrifice anything and everything to get that last drop of precious fluid for our giant machines to convey our overfat asses to the local convenience store and beyond.

Jerry Ford, and then Jimmy Carter recognized the problem decades ago. If we had had the foresight to continue their legacy, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

When Reagan was elected and he yanked Carter's solar panels off the White House, our long national nightmare began and the seeds of what Kunstler calls The Long Emergency were sown.

Let's face. We want it all and care about nothing except our own convenience and greed. If we have to tear up most of our land, destroy mountaintops, farmland, rivers, and all our glaciers to get what we want we will go there.

While I am not a big fan of technology to solve our problems, this rush to CTL will just perpetuate a technology which should be in the process of becoming obsolete, the ICE. While PHEVs and BEVs are not the be all and end all, they have the potential of having a much smaller carbon footprint than ICEs, especially if we move to smaller vehicles.

But really. The ultimate goal needs to be to get out of these damn vehicles and be in a position to walk, bicycle, and take the bus and rail when necessary. I discovered a really neat way to cut fuel use three decades ago; live close to work. Wherever I moved to because of my job, I made sure I lived close to work.

SJC

I read The Long Emergency by Kunstler and thought some of his points were good. He felt that the suburb was our biggest mistake and some might agree. However, his book struck me as a bit of doomsday and survivalist. If people want to be pessimistic and say the only way we can solve this problem is to go back to the land, then that is their choice. By the end of the book, he implies that we will be forced back to the land anyway evenually. I would like to believe that we can solve this problem working together...just my opinion.

gr

It's nice to dream about idealized lifestyles where we all live near work, drive the smallest footprint vehicles, eat dried fruits, and have gigajules of free electricity to run everything.

But in a real world there are millions of elderly, retired, young and infirm people who cannot meet these ideal lifestyles. Families still have children to shuttle, commuters still choose to live in suburbs and rural areas.

Today it's difficult for the elderly to cross a street before the light turns red on them. Because the selfish designers choose time frames too short for all but the most healthy and physically fit. Talk about narcism.

Going green means showing some care and er... compassion for the Earth and its natural systems. Extending this compassion to the old and young and challenged members of society is... well, it's what you do when building toward idealism. Rome was not built in a day, nor will this enterprise.

matt

They do lip service to sequestration.
The last paragraph from the link in the main article:
"The Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 is a three-part, comprehensive effort to create a vibrant domestic CTL fuel market. First, this bill enables the Department of Energy to provide loan guarantees for construction and direct loans for the planning and permitting of CTL plants. Loan guarantees will encourage private investment and planning loans will help companies prepare a plant for construction. Second, this legislation will expand investment tax credits and expensing provisions to include coal-to-liquids plants, extend the Fuel Excise Tax credit, and expand the credit for equipment used to capture and sequester carbon emissions. These tax incentives build on the loans and loan guarantees by offering tax breaks during the multiple-year construction phase and during initial production at the plant. Third, this bill provides the Department of Defense the funding and authorization to purchase, test, and integrate these fuels into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and military fuel supplies."

eric


Ultimately I think the whole question of sequestration is a diversion. At the end of the CTL process, you end up with a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that would be used in vehicles, and when burned it would release CO2 into the air.

To me the whole thing smells like a last-gasp hail-mary attempt to maintain the status quo.

SJC

When the status quo is huge, will you be more sucessful with less side effects transitioning gradually or suddenly? History says gradual, continual change is the way. The odds of attaining, let alone suceeding in a sudden widespread change are low. That sudden shock could have side effects that you have not even possibly imagined.

Matt

WTF? This is the same Barack Obama that we've all been placing such great hopes on?

And now he wants to replace oil with... coal! WTF!

Do these people have any type of science understanding at all?

We are soooooo doomed people. so totally f**ked.

earl

Technology will be the answer if there is an answer.
If you junked every car today you would not stop warming.All of the valiant efforts to limit co2 are and will come up short unless a large culling of the population is started today and eliminates 5 billion by the end of the year.
I do like the thinking of posters who envision this tech being supplanted in the future by successively better and cleaner tech.We need a starting point that would end with geoengineering that would take co2 out of atmosphere.We can then argue about where to set the thermostat.

Neil

re pessimism abounds: I think my Grandfather said it best, "I learned to stop worrying after two world wars, the great depression, a global pandemic, the oil embargo, the cold war, the bomb, disco and rap ... I'm still here and I'm still happy" What can I say, he's very old.

Pete_P

As stated above, this is a re-introduction of previous legislation. Specifically, "U.S. Senate Bill S.3325 -- Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2006". The 2007 version may likely contain nearly-identical text. The 2006 version does make explicit mention of carbon emission capture/sequestration for purposes of inclusion into the available tax credit(s), as follows:

<-- S.3225 -- Sec. 48C(c)(1)(A):
"... (including any property which allows for the capture, transportation, or sequestration of by-products resulting from such process, including carbon emissions), ..." -->

Full text can be found here:
<-- http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.3325.IS: -->

HTH.

Ron Fischer

IGCC and CtL both have a gasification step at the start of the process. To date, US power companies haven't invested in fluidized bed gasifiers because of the ~10% increase in fixed cost, and no clear idea of long term costs (maintenance).

Overall, supporting CtL will at least put some history into the record for future buyers of IGCC plants.

The preferred answer to Carbon emissions reduction still seems to be broader, like a trading scheme, rather than trying to limit individual initiatives like this one.

Engineer-Poet

Wabash River has put quite a bit of history into the record, and it's not a route to runaway GHG emissions.

Efficiency is the big deal here.  The average car is roughly 15% efficient tank-to-wheels; add a CTL step at 50%, and you're down to 7.5% mine-to-wheels.  If you burn coal in a converted IGCC plant like Wabash River, you'll get ~40% coal-to-grid; if you have 25% losses between grid to wheels, you'll get 30% throughput (losses from mine to coal heap are outside this, but probably very small).  Now, can we or the world afford to mine 4 times as much coal to do the job via coal-to-liquids, or are we going to get sensible?

Tripp

What effect would all of this have on the price of coal? How much coal does it take to make a 42 gal barrel of oil?

It seems like the price of coal would be driven up quite a bit if we were to scale this out to meet a large percentage of our transportation fuel needs.

Engineer-Poet

Coal varies greatly in energy content, so it's impossible to name one figure for the CTL barrel-equivalent.

You're right that CTL would bid up the price of coal and keep it high.  That's why coal companies and coal-state pols are creaming in their pants over it.

anti gravity

how long before the USA starts to run out of coal, not long if every fool with a hummer starts to burn it
burn baby burn

cidi

How much coal does it take to make a 42 gal barrel of oil?

E-P is correct that there is no single number appropriate here. But you might get an idea from the energy density of liquid fuels, ~46 MJ/kg, vs the density of most coals, 15-25 MJ/kg. Anthracite is around 30 MJ/kg but we have little anthracite.

It seems like the price of coal would be driven up quite a bit if we were to scale this out to meet a large percentage of our transportation fuel needs.

For sure that "300 year reserve" of coal won't last nearly that long.

Andy

I think plasma conversion of waste to Ethanol,Butanol,Syndiesel is ideal. NYC produces about 50,000 Ton/Day of Municipal Solid Waste. Plasma conversion realeses the about 25-30% by weight hydrogen as H2. Startech is building a tire to ethanol facility at Tom's River,NJ. It will produce about 1,000,000 Gallons/Week of ethanol from tires. Treating MSW with plasma could displace 100% of our U.S. oil imports. Landfill Plasma to electricity could power the nation for 30 years and you get your Metals and Silica back. There's you answer!

www.startech.net

KJD

Obama is human. He DOES make mistakes. This is one.

SJC

If coal sells for $40 per ton and that ton can make the equivalent fuel of 2 barrels of oil and the oil costs 2 x $60 or $120, then it is no wonder that CTL is getting some attention.

Engineer-Poet

The question is what we're going to get out of that ton.

Wabash River is 40% efficient; a fully modern IGCC plant would probably be 45-50% efficient.  A ton of coal yielding 25 million BTU would produce 2930 kWh from Wabash River, enough to drive a Chevy Volt about 10,900 miles (assuming 6.5 hours charge @ 110 V 15 A yields 40 miles range).  A 50% efficient IGCC plant would increase that to almost 13000 miles.  The same coal converted to 2 barrels (84 gallons) of motor fuel would drive a 50 MPG car a mere 4200 miles.

Electric is the way to go.

Robert Schwartz

Earl: "All of the valiant efforts to limit co2 are and will come up short unless a large culling of the population is started today and eliminates 5 billion by the end of the year."

Yikes. Are you volunteering to go first?

SJC

It comes down to reality. You can not wave your hand and suddenly convert 1000 coal plants to IGCC. You can not wave your other hand and convert 100 million cars into EVs. CTL may not be as efficient, but it works with what we have now. Making the transition is capital intensive and we generally pick the expedient method. We kind of all know that by now.

Engineer-Poet

I don't have to wave my hand to build 17 million new light vehicles every year; that happens anyway.  The question is whether we'll adapt the vehicles to our future energy sources, or the energy sources to the vehicles.

Electric vehicles are key to managing many problems beyond a shrinking supply of petroleum:  greenhouse gases, noise and toxic emissions just begin the list.  And I don't have to adapt any extant vehicles; they get driven less as they get older, and get removed from the fleet at an average age of around 17.  Last, we can spend a trillion dollars on new CTL plants which are good for exactly one thing, or a few hundred billion on electric plants which can help power anything that uses electricity.

Betting our future on CTL is suicidal foolishness.

DOE Engineer

The number of posts on this page voicing environmental concerns shows that there should be a sequestration effort linked to CTL. The CO2 stream you can get from a CTL plant can be compressed for geologic sequestration for about a $4 increase per barrell of fuel. Since CTL is economically viable with an oil price of about $40, we can afford to apply it. This makes CTL stand up in the CO2 arena to be better than conventional gas and diesel. CTL products out perform conventional fuels emissions of NOx, SOx, and particulates for use in vehicles as well. Concerns with expanded coal use and continued American lack of energy conservation are more than valid, but energy security is a very important issue and this will aid other alternative fuels in providing that. Don't hate on Obama for enhancing national security through energy security while helping his state make money on their coal. Well, actually, go ahead, I don't care. CTL is not the best or a singular alternative to gas, but its the best one currently available and we should do something because everyone else is (China).
P.S. All the algae talk is stupid.
P.P.S. Please make more efficient and/or electric cars or at least stop building gas guzzlers. (Maybe some really good diesel/electric hybrids optimized to run on high cetane FT products?)

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