Coal is Not the Answer

Congress should remember that energy dependence and global warming are twin problems with mutually beneficial solutions.

Liquid transportation fuels made from coal emit nearly twice as much greenhouse gas as gasoline made from crude oil. Even if you use carbon capture and storage methods to decrease the carbon dioxide emitted during the production of liquid coal, the lifecycle (or “well-to-wheel”) emissions from liquid coal are still 4 percent to 8 percent higher than traditional gasoline. That’s why coal-to-liquid projects fall short of providing a real solution to our country’s energy crisis.

Achieving energy independence must go hand in hand with global warming solutions. Without this foresight, we could end up in a worse mess than we currently are in. That’s why the Center for American Progress supports the innovation, production, and sale of low-carbon, alternative transportation fuels, including biofuels. Sustainably-produced low carbon fuels can significantly reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, combat global warming, drive down fuel prices, and vitalize rural communities.

Yet two congressional hearings today will discuss using coal as a viable energy source. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the challenges associated with coal gasification, including coal-to-liquids and industrial gasification. And the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality will hold a hearing that will include discussion of standby loans for coal-to-liquids projects.

The biggest concern surrounding liquid coal is its global warming potential. We must redirect our transportation fuel policy toward low-carbon alternative fuel solutions. As Congress considers inadvisable coal-to-liquid proposals today, it should remember that the only responsible way to achieve energy independence is to create policies that also reduce global warming.

Americans overwhelmingly support measures like these. A recent poll from the Center for American Progress shows that 71 percent of Americans think we should act immediately to expand the use of cleaner, alternative energy, while only 27 percent think that we should expand oil and coal production. With the summer season starting and our dependence on oil more evident than ever, the time to act is now.

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