The Senate Says No to Liquid Coal

In a surprise move today, Congress did something.

Specifically, they voted down two energy bill amendments supporting the development of technology to liquefy coal.

The Bunning-Domenici amendment would have mandated the use of 6 billion gallons of the stuff by 2022.

The second amendment sponsored by Democratic Senator Jon Tester from Montana would have subsidized liquid coal production with $10 billion dollars in loans for carbon capture devices, which sound good but the only problem is the technology is unproven and may not even work.

Not that we shouldn’t pursue new or as yet unproven technology. How about $10 billion in renewable energy research and development?

The United States has been called the “Saudi Arabia of Coal” with a supply experts say will last for centuries. Thing is, if we start burning coal like there’s no tomorrow, well, there probably won’t be any tomorrow. At least one that you or I would likely be interested in hanging out in.

Imagine the year is 2150 and there’s nobody around and nothing to see for miles but scorched earth and mountains of coal.

We’ll use coal for the foreseeable future, I suppose. We all expect the lights to turn on when we flip the switch, and chances are that it’s a coal-fired power plant that’s feeding the electricity.

So instead of burning even more coal and, by some estimates, doubling the amount of global warming pollution than that of petroleum-based fuels, why don’t we spend our research and development dollar (10 billion of ‘em) on renewable energy sources?

Proponents of liquid coal cite a desire to wean America from foreign sources of energy. An excellent idea. An easy way to start is by raising fuel efficiency standards in cars and trucks. Dependency on Middle Eastern oil could be significantly reduced practically overnight. Well, within a few years anyway.

What’s that? Auto manufacturers don’t want to?  

I know this may sound silly and hopelessly naive, but the last time I checked, Congress and the current occupant of the White House didn’t work for the car companies or the oil companies or the coal companies. They worked for, well, me. And you.

Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe.

It would be easier to take their intentions and amendments and poorly spoken rhetoric (in the case of the current occupant of the White House) at face value if the simple solutions available to us now were addressed before attempting to foist upon a mesmerized populace a grand scheme to liquefy coal to the tune of $10 billion dollars and 6 billion gallons.

Which simply brings me back to our tag line here at – time is short and leadership is lacking.

Just in case you were wondering what I thought of the idea of liquid coal…


The Daily Green
The Grist Mill at
United States Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources

Tags: coal, liquid+coal, congress, energy+policy, global+warming, climate+change, environment, environmental+legislation
Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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