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.