Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Evidence That Congress is Not Serious About Climate Change

Okay, let me see if I got this right. Just weeks after the IPCC released a series of consensus reports that show the sobering scientific consensus on climate change, Congress both weakens efforts to increase fuel efficiency and moves toward a $10 billion subsidy of coal-to-diesel plants. Last time I checked, the Democrats were still in control of the House and Senate. this is disgraceful.

Here is the New York Times report:

As the Senate began debate today on a sprawling bill to reduce oil consumption, top Democrats were circulating a proposal to provide $10 billion in loans for plants that make diesel fuel from coal.

The proposal highlights the horse-trading involving powerful industry groups as Democratic leaders push for legislation that would require higher mileage in cars and a huge increase in the production of renewable fuels made from plants like switchgrass.

The proposal has angered environmental groups, which contend that coal-based liquids produce at least as much carbon dioxide, the primary gas associated with global warming, as petroleum-based fuels do.

The bill was drafted by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, who is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and the energy bill’s lead author. Until this week, Mr. Bingaman had opposed big subsidies for coal-based fuels, saying that each new production plant would cost billions of dollars and that the economic uncertainties posed risks for taxpayers.

But in what could be an effort to fend off demands from coal-state lawmakers for even bigger subsidies, Mr. Bingaman drafted a measure that would offer up to $10 billion in direct government loans for coal-to-liquid plants.

Read it all.

So why am I concerned? These coal to liquid fuel plants will greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions, with only modest impact on energy independence. This is from an earlier New York Times report:
But coal-to-liquid fuels produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted while using the fuel, the production process creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.

Coal industry executives insist their fuel can actually be cleaner than oil, because they would capture the gas produced as the liquid fuel is being made and store it underground. Some could be injected into oil fields to push oil to the surface.

Several aspiring coal-to-liquid companies say that they would reduce greenhouse emissions even further by using renewable fuels for part of the process. But none of that has been done at commercial volumes, and many analysts say the economic issues are far from settled.

''There are many uncertainties,'' said James T. Bartis, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, who testified last week before the Senate Energy Committee. ''We don't even know what the costs are yet.''

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