Montana governor says coal could ease fuel woes

| 8/26/2005

Montana’s governor believes he may have the solution to America’s growing energy problems: coal.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Reuters news service that, using a process discovered in Germany 80 years ago, it is possible to convert coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.

Though it has been around since 1923, the technology was not considered economical as long as oil was less than $30 a barrel because it costs $32 to convert coal into a barrel of oil.

However, with current prices more than double that rate, Schweitzer said now is the time to seriously consider using the technology.

“We can do it cheaper than importing oil from the sheiks, dictators, rats and crooks that we’re bringing it from right now,” he said.

Schweitzer added that it would be possible for Montana to produce gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel for $1 per gallon.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, diesel fuel made with this process – known as Fischer-Tropsch – produces less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.

Fischer-Tropsch technology has been in use on a small scale and in other countries for years, most notably South Africa, according to the EPA.

Schweitzer told Reuters that constructing a Fischer-Tropsch plant would cost about $1.5 billion, but added that the recently passed Energy Bill contains an 80 percent loan guarantee for a Fischer-Tropsch plant.