On Friday, Treehugger posted the results of a recent Carnegie Mellon study comparing the lifecycle global warming pollution emissions of liquid coal fuel and a plug-in hybrid car running on regular gasoline. Because all the carbon in liquid coal fuel is fossil fuel based and it takes a lot of energy to convert coal into a liquid fuel, liquid coal can actually result in twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline. The Carnegie Mellon study makes some generous assumptions and find that liquid coal results in between a 60% increase and in an absolute best case, with carbon capture and sequestration, at best a 6% reduction. They find a plug-in hybrid running on this dirty fuel produces about a 25% reduction, but of course the reduction would be even bigger if it was running of regular old gasoline and much bigger if it was running on a low carbon renewable fuels such as ethanol from cellulose produced in a responsible way.
NRDC and other environmental groups (see www.saveourenvironment.org for the full list of groups) have been working furiously to educate Congress about the dangers of liquid coal and ran this add back in Roll Call back in March:
(If you want to read the small print, here's a PDF of the ad.)
The good news is that we were able to keep liquid coal largely out of the Senate energy bill, but as I've discussed earlier, the coal lobby is working furiously to make coal at least eligible if not the sole beneficiary of every federal energy dollar. The House fight is still going full tilt and then there will be the conference and this is just for an energy bill. We'll also have to fight them off in the budget battles.