Congress Should Go Ahead with Coal-to-Liquids
On January 30, 2008, Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Tom Davis requested information from Secretary Robert Gates on how the Department of Defense will comply with The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (became law on December 19, 2007) barring the government from purchasing alternative fuels for vehicles and planes, such as fuels from a coal-to-liquids process or tar sands, if those fuels have higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.
Section 526 of that law provides:
No Federal agency shall enter into a contract for procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any mobility-related use, other than for research or testing, unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and combustion of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.
I haven't seen the reply to that letter.
In February 2008 I questioned How will DOD Comply with the New Law. I asked the following: We know that Air Force continues certifying the B-52s, C-17s and soon B-1s to run on synthetic fuel. Does that mean that USAF has to drop the plan and forget millions of dollars spent until now?
This question made sense because:
Legally, in other words, the Air Force can experiment with CTL but cannot buy it for operations. The certification process already under way for the GTL fuel will continue apace, but the current uncertainty of future oil and gas prices will slow down a full-on embrace of any single alternative synthetic blend. At this point, the military is exploring its options, but not committing to a particular path. The future of the U.S. energy mix is in flux.
A 2007 report from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) concluded that a $5 billion investment in a commercial-scale coal-to-liquid facility located near coal deposits would pay itself off with oil priced at just $61 a barrel, including the cost of equipment to capture and compress carbon dioxide for injection into a pipeline. The estimate does not include the cost of burying the carbon dioxide or transporting the fuel to its markets. At least two synthetic-fuel production facilities were planned in the US, by Rentech and Baard Energy, intended to capture carbon dioxide that is released during the synthesis process and use it in enhanced oil recovery by injecting it into nearby oil fields. http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/print/6694. But nothing happened.
Things may change now.
H.R.1540 -- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 passed House on 26 May 2011.
See, SEC. 844. EXEMPTION OF DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FROM ALTERNATIVE FUEL PROCUREMENT REQUIREMENT of the Bill. It says:
Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140; 42 U.S.C. 17142) is amended by adding at the end the following: `This section shall not apply to the Department of Defense.'.
If the US in general and the US military forces in particular really want to reduce their dependence on imported fuel this amendment is a good was forward.
But not many people think like that.
For instance, in their piece appeared in The Hill on 27 May 2011, retired Lt. General Norman R. Seip and co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, Nicole Lederer, stress that
“Removing Section 526 would be a step backward for U.S. security and clean energy innovation (….) repealing Section 526 will sidetrack the process already underway at the Pentagon and simultaneously shatter any semblance of certainty in the commercial marketplace. Repeal would discourage innovation and force the military in to a deepening dependence on dirty fossil fuels with a giant price tag in lives and treasure. The military knows there are better options, and so does Congress. They should preserve Section 526.”
No Sir! This blind green mania and discrimination of alternative technologies based on dubious groundings must stop. Congress should go ahead with the change.