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Coal conversion plants—a bad idea
Governor Joe Manchin recently announced plans for West Virginia’s coal conversion initiative, which will provide incentives and speedy permits for new processing plants to convert coal into gasoline, diesel, “natural” gas, and other products. He announced this a few days after Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer announced similar plans for his state. The governors of Pennsylvania and Montana are pushing similar plans in their states.

The justification is that these plants will supposedly provide local jobs and reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil and Gulf Coast refineries. The negative side of the coin is heavily weighted with problems. First, increased demand for coal means increased mountaintop removal, which means increased destruction of our culture, communities, homes, environment, and lives. This will only make our homeland less secure—our kids already have shell shock from the daily blasting and fear of flooding. Second, the plants are likely to create tons of waste products to foul our air, water, and land, regardless of how modern they are. Third, the products are still fossil fuel putting carbon dioxide into the air to heat our planet, kill off several species, and drastically alter life for every living thing on Earth. Fourth, if U.S. lawmakers required automakers to significantly increase fuel efficiency, a step easily taken, our dependence on foreign oil would go away without having to further endanger American lives and destroy our mountains.

Governor Manchin has revived the Public Energy Authority (PEA) to make coal conversion plants a reality. The PEA should instead focus on developing truly renewable, sustainable energy sources for our long-term well-being and not the short-term profits for a few. Manchin, Schweitzer, and other proponents of coal liquefaction are quick to point out that the technology has been around for a long time. But just because the Germans used it in World War II to fuel their war machines doesn’t mean we have to do the same.

©2005

Coal River 

Mountain Watch