Monday, June 18, 2007

Rentech Questions

The following was submitted by Jane Gardner as a letter to the Editor of the Natchez Democrat . However, it was not printed as submitted, as sometimes happens. So, here is the correct version.

I am concerned with the prospect of Rentech, Inc. establishing a facility in Natchez. I am not only worried about environmental issues but also the expense associated with building and maintaining a coal-to-liquid facility.

Rentech officials and coal industry supporters say Rentech will produce a clean alternative fuel. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: coal-based fuel results in more than twice the greenhouse gas pollution than the conventional gasoline it would replace. It goes on to state: “Without full capture and storage of the carbon dioxide, the coal-to-liquid process results in a 118.5 percent increase in global warming pollution over traditional oil-based fuels.”

The proposed Rentech coal-to-liquid plant will be using the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert coal into a liquid diesel fuel to be used in buses, trucks, and jets. This technique was used in World War II Germany when oil embargos existed, but no company has been built on a commercial scale that also captures the carbon dioxide. Also, it is my understanding that a coal-to-liquid company does not exist in the U.S. at this time.

Even The Denver Post newspaper has spoken out against coal-to-liquid facilities and this is the location of Rentech headquarters: “But even if carbon sequestration is perfected and made affordable – and that’s a big “if” widespread use of coal-to-liquids fuel would create a fuel that still is dirtier than conventional gasoline.”

Not only are the carbon emissions a glaring negative, but the cost of these liquid-to-coal companies is so astronomical that analyst say, economically, it makes no sense. Analyst at M.I.T. estimate the cost at $70 billion to build enough plants to replace 10 percent of American gasoline consumption. The Energy Department estimated that a plant capable of making 50,000 barrels of liquified coal a day would cost $4.5 billion. The United States burns 9 million barrels of gasoline a day.

The coal and mining industries are behind the creation and push for these liquid coal industries, like Rentech. The coal industry is spending millions of dollars lobbying in congress right now to pass legislation with government incentives so these companies will have the funding to be built and maintained.

The New York Times reported that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, which has $5.3 billion in sales, told an industry conference nearly two years ago that the value of Peabody’s coal reserves would skyrocket almost tenfold, to $3.6 trillion, if it sold all its coal in the form of liquid fuels. Peabody has quadrupled it’s annual lobbying budget to about $2 million since 2004. There is no surprise Peabody Energy is investing heavily to promote Rentech.
The Chinese government announced it is considering suspending its planned $13 billion dollar liquid coal facility because of the high energy, water, and monetary costs associated with the plant.

The coal industry and Rentech are asking congress to pass bills that will give them loan guarantees for six to 10 major plants with the estimate of building one at $4.5 billion and a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of fuel sold through 2020, also automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel and permission for the Air Force to sign a 25-year contract for almost a billion gallons a year of liquid coal fuel.

We do not have an endless supply of coal in this country; it’s already becoming harder to mine, leading to the increased use of destructive techniques like mountain top removal mining which according to the EPA, at its current rate, another million acres will disappear within decades.

Mississippi should be investing in renewable energy resources like biofuels which are based on agriculture so they’re good for America and for the farmer and they are domestically produced, not imported.

The coal industry, the most polluting industry in our nation, wants to artificially create and entirely new industry that will produce a product that emits twice the carbon and greenhouse gases as gasoline. This is outrageous and it will be at the tax-payer’s expense.

Unfortunately, I believe this coal-to-liquid scheme is nothing more than a way for the coal and mining industries to get richer at the expense of our health, our land, and our tax dollars.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholehearedly with you Ms Gardner.

I never liked the smell of this Rentech thing from the start and now I hear we (taxpayers) are buying the International Paper Co. property to sell to Rentech who will pay for it with our money.

It is time to seriously re-assess our governing bodies in the city/county and make some changes.

Anonymous said...

The state of Missisippi put up several million to build a state of the art meat processing plant in central MS, three years ago, that ran for one week as I recall. Now the state is stuck with it.

Rentech, that has not poured one yard of concrete or nailed up a single board locally has already outgrown the Belwood property we presently own and now wants the I.P. Co. acreage?

Lets talk about this before we get scammed again. That gamble is tooo big.

Anonymous said...

Take the "green peace" BS somewhere else. We need Rentech if they will come.

tootenrosie said...

Fear not the US. Senate yesterday cut of the "mother's milk" money.

Anonymous said...

that is great news! let's here it for the good guys, sometimes they do win. I guess though if this guy in Natchez yesterday can raise enough money he will continue with development. They are having trouble raising enough for the Ill. plant, but I would not be surprised it Peabody Energy continued to support this polluted progect.

Anonymous said...

A stopped clock is right twice a day

Anonymous said...

I wish that the people of Natchez
would realize that smokestack
industry isn't the answer to
boosting the economy and creating
jobs in Natchez.

Putting effort into making the
Natchez airport a hub that would
attract a major airline carrier to bring in tourists and boosting the
marketing budget so Natchez could
be promoted as the jewel that it is, thats the answer.

More casino's are going to cheapen
the landscape and bring in undesireable side effects.
Any time I visit a town that has several casinos in it I think, "This place feels it doesn't have enough to offer and has resorted itself to casinos for revenue...they sold out". Prisons, coal processing plants will not make Natchez more desireable as a place to live or visit.

The answer is do EVERYTHING you can to promote Natchez and bring in tourists to SPEND MONEY.

Anonymous said...

Any real industry looking to re-locate looks seriously at the political system and the public school system, upfront.

Our political system is a joke and this day care center we call public schools is a larger one.

In a visit several months ago to the business office on Homochitto St. there were two laughing on the phone, one reading a newspaper and one filing her fingernails. It was SUCH an imposition for Ms newspaper to have to finally get up. The others remained with their present entertainment.

Just watch, the school system will raise our taxes this year because they skipped last year.


Anonymous said...

Apparently there are no other coal to liquid plants in this country. It takes more money, energy, and natural resources (water) to produce a minimal amt. of fuel. So, it's obvious this is a get-richer-quicker scheme on the part of the coal industry. ( I remember Bush touting coal energy a couple of years ago.) But, why Natchez? For the same reason we've been the target of other abusive, ill-fated schemes. Our city and county leaders view us as Third-World, down-on-our luck, hungry for any thing (crumbs the rest of the world rejects) someone will throw at us regardless of the long-term consequences to the environment, our financial and physical health.

Anonymous said...

Smoke and mirrors! Our leaders love a circus, and fall victim to it everytime. They embrace
anything that will "validate" their usefullness and give the appearance they are thinking of us, the citizens and voters. Smoke and Mirrors!