We publish an astonishing amount of good news here at EcoGeek.org. When I started this all up a year ago, good news was pretty hard to come by. But now it just flows in. The future's so bright, I've got to wear photovoltaic clothing.
But there are some dark spots. One in particular looks like it could undo a lot of the work done in the last few years. It's a dark spot that I've seen jaunting merrily across the screen on Grist and TreeHugger, a smudge supported by Barack Obama and myriad congressional Democrats: Coal.
For the last few years energy independence and the green movement have almost become synonymous. But coal threatens to break down that synergy. While recent forward progress that has been astonishing, coal is providing an opportunity for the United States to stagnate once again.
The technology to convert coal to liquid fuel has existed since the 1920s. If congress were to mandate and fund its implementation America would begin to slowly gain energy independence, Peabody Coal's net worth would increase tenfold to roughly $3.6 trillion, the Appalachian Mountains would be destroyed and U.S. carbon emissions would double. This is a bad idea.
Unfortunately, there's a bill working through congress right now that would give coal companies billions of dollars to help them build coal-to-liquid plants. It would guarantee coal companies government contracts, including a $40-billion, 25-year deal with the air force. Peabody coal is literally fighting for trillions of dollars here.
At the same time, there are also bills in congress that would cap CO2 emissions and make coal-to-liquid technologies instantly obsolete. But there's not a lot of money behind the carbon neutral lobby, while Coal has millions to spend on congress. The unfortunate truth is, this bill has a chance of passing. For more in depth analysis, you can refer to the New York Times, as they've just done a marvelous write-up
of the situation.
This could be bad news. This could be very bad news. We have been making some marvelous steps forward in the last few years. A large-scale conversion to liquid coal would a reversion, the exact opposite of what we need to be doing.
I invite everyone to check out ILoveMountains.org, and to consider Illinois Senator Obama's position on "clean coal." Hillary may not be an EcoGeek, but at least she doesn't go around pretending like Coal can be good for the environment.