The energy debate isn’t going away anytime soon… if ever. Two of the big topics are of course, foreign oil and global warming. We want it here, we want it cheap and we want it clean. The Air Force (as a large fuel consumer) is trying to paint coal as a solution.
DARPA is sponsoring a $4.5 million research effort to find new ways to turn coal into liquid fuel. The existing Fischer-Tropsch method of squeezing fuel out of coal or natural gas actually creates more carbon dioxide than traditional, refined burning does. The coal-to-liquids (CTL) solicitation from DARPA is…:
…interested in processes that will ultimately enable the United States to economically extract energy from its coal resources in the form of liquid fuels using coal to liquid conversion technologies that are environmentally friendly and cost competitive with petroleum based fuels.
Have you ever actually held a piece of coal? It’s dirty. It’s hard for me to imagine how it could ever be made to burn cleanly. Of course I don’t have the answer to the world’s energy needs, but instinctually, it seems to me that DARPA might be looking up the wrong tailpipe.