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World's Worst Approach to Lowering Gas Prices - Sierra Daily

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Sierra Daily

May 09, 2011

World's Worst Approach to Lowering Gas Prices

Coal to oil
Senator Joe Manchin (D-Big Coal) is crowing today about the groundbreaking for a new coal-to-gasoline plant in Mingo County, West Virginia. If the project eventually materializes, it will apparently be the largest such plant in the world:

 “The price of gas has skyrocketed to more than four dollars a gallon in the last year, and there’s no question that West Virginia families are hurting,” Senator Manchin said. “West Virginia is a state where people have to drive to survive, and I know these high prices are hitting families hard. This country has to get serious about making energy independence a priority, which is why we must develop a national energy policy that harnesses all of our vast domestic resources and push forward with new technology – just like coal-to-gasoline – that will help us achieve energy independence within a generation."

Only problem is--coal-to-gasoline may very well be the worst energy option in the world. (See "A Patriotic Pall: The coal industry takes a bad fuel and makes it worse.") Since the 1940s when Nazi scientists sought to turn Germany's coal reserves into fuel to break the Allies blockade, the idea crops up every several years, still without any success. This time out, Ken Ward, Jr. at Coal Tattoo does the honors in pointing out some of the larger difficulties:

Now, Sen. Manchin doesn’t mention questions about the lack of financing (subscription required) for this project.  He doesn’t mention lingering problems with the company’s state environmental permits— such as the fact that its stormwater permit for its construction not being issued yet.

And Sen. Manchin certainly didn’t mention the biggest question facing the TransGas proposal: The fact that it has no plan for capturing and storing its greenhouse gas emissions, meaning the fuel it produces could end up generating twice as much carbon dioxide as traditional fuels.

If Senator Manchin were serious about lowering fuel costs for his constituents, he'd join the Sierra Club's Michael Brune and scores of other environmental leaders in signing this letter to President Obama, urging an increase in auto fuel-efficiency standards. According to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a 60-mile-per-gallon fuel-efficiency standard would save car owners nearly $9,000 over the life of the vehicle--equivalent to a cut in the price of gas of $1.30. In addition, it would lower greenhouse gas pollution by 6 percent a year--rather than doubling it with coal-to-liquid. Won't you join us, Senator?

--Paul Rauber


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