The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Welcome to Central Industrial

A couple of years ago, I thought Democrats were missing a big opportunity by not framing conservation measures and cleaner energy as an "energy independence" issue. This article from TNR is an unpleasant reminder of just how big a role corporate cash plays in our election process.

But the strategy comes with a downside: The coal industry has lately latched on to the "energy security" craze by billing itself as the answer to our oil-dependency woes. Specifically, Big Coal is teaming up with an array of Republicans and Democrats to tout liquefied coal as a substitute for gasoline in U.S. vehicles. The country is sitting on vast coal reserves, they reason, so why not use those instead of tossing money at the House of Saud? There's just one catch: Liquefied coal would do little to reduce carbon emissions and, in all likelihood, would make things worse. Nevertheless, the idea continues to gain currency in Congress, in part because "energy security" is a sales pitch few politicians can resist.

Unfortunately for [Big Coal], a recent analysis by the Energy Department found that coal-to-liquid fuel could generate roughly twice the carbon emissions that regular gasoline does. Coal backers counter that, if the carbon released during liquefication could be captured and permanently stored underground, the fuel would be comparable in carbon impact to gasoline--that is, the status quo. But the technology for storing carbon underground remains unproved, and, even if it works, cost pressures may prevent it from being adopted on a large scale, since it could make plants more expensive to build and operate.

The moral of the story: Why bother trying to save the planet if you have enough money to ignore the consequences?