Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coal Is the Answer?

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) writes thoughtfully about U.S. dependence on foreign oil at Ocala.com, coming to the conclusion that coal-to-liquids technologies are the answer:

There are many other steps that must be taken: hydrogen cells, solar and wind power, geothermal energy, conservation and clean fuel technologies.

However, given our massive reserves of coal, we need to put this abundance toward reducing our dependency on imported oil. This will greatly enhance our national and economic security.

Stearns bases this view on the assessment that U.S. coal reserves total some 275 billion tons, calling for a Manhattan or Apollo project to take advantage of this huge resource.

Interestingly, a reasonable guesstimate for U.S. wind resources is that they are sufficient to generate 15-20 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. How much coal would be needed to generate that much electricity for one year? Roughly 10 billion tons. Clearly, our wind resources are also massive and deserve equal attention, rather than to be dismissed as a relatively trivial footnote to coal.

Also, missing from Stearns' analysis: any mention of global warming. Probably good thinking on his part--my guess is that the carbon dioxide emissions from the production and then combustion of coal-based liquids would be quite high.

If it were not for global warming concerns, certainly, the idea of any domestic substitute for imported oil would be attractive. For a totally different big-picture approach, see V2G, or Vehicle-to-Grid, Power. I think of it as plug-in hybrids on steroids.


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