This entry speaks for itself. It is Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer addressing one aspect of what is so badly needed in our country: a national energy policy.
Gov: Synfuels are the future
Gov. Brian Schweitzer
I have a passion for energy, particularly clean, affordable energy like biodiesel, ethanol and wind power that can be produced in America. So when earlier this year a top Pentagon official told me of the military's interest in using clean-burning diesel fuel made from coal rather than oil, I was all ears.
Most people are surprised to learn that the technology for using coal to make fuels like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel has existed for 80 years, and was used in America as early as 1928. The largest applications of synfuel technology were notorious: Germany in the 1940's, and South Africa during apartheid. Both made their synfuel out of coal when the world would not sell them oil. Today, South Africa produces 200,000 barrels a day of clean fuel each day. Commonly called "Fischer-Tropsch" or "synfuels", these liquids have remarkable properties: they burn cleaner and perform better than petroleum fuels, and require no engine modifications.
Jobs and Economic Benefits
With 120 billion tons of coal in the ground, Montana is as well suited to make synfuels as any state in America. This is why over the last several months I have been meeting with top energy executives, scientists and investors to get the ball rolling on a coal-to-liquids fuel complex in eastern Montana.
The benefits to our state would be tremendous. In liquid fuel terms, Montana's coal is the equivalent of one-quarter of the oil in the entire Middle East. Even by developing a fraction of these reserves, we can create jobs, bring much-needed economic development to eastern Montana, and produce ultra-clean fuel to distribute around the West.
In the larger context, synfuel production would give America energy independence in the purest sense: American fuel, made on American soil by American workers. With additional domestic fuel supplementing foreign imports, the U.S. would not be at the mercy of price-fixing dictators, or international speculators that cause wild market fluctuations in the price of fuel.
At the same time, we could provide valuable independence to our military, currently the largest single consumer of foreign oil in the country. The Department of Defense, expected to be a key player in the Montana fuel project, needs a fuel supply that is stable, dependable and made in America. Montana can fill this order.
We all want to reduce emissions. Synfuel moves beyond "clean coal technology" to accomplish that goal. In the production process, coal is first turned into syngas. Sulfur, arsenic and mercury, as well as greenhouse gases, are safely removed and the syngas is then converted to crude products that can be distilled into a variety of fuels that burn dramatically cleaner than conventional fuels. Furthermore, the technology is flexible. While one by-product is electricity, the end product can be diesel, gasoline, syngas, or looking toward the future, hydrogen to power ultra-clean fuel cells.
Montana's Energy Future
Given the benefits of this technology, it is tragic that America has sat idly as countries like South Africa, and more recently China, Qatar and Malaysia, have built synthetic fuel plants. We put a man on the moon 67 years after the Wright Brothers' first flight. It's now been 80 years since the U.S. government first made fuel from coal, yet American citizens are being forced to empty their bank accounts to buy fuel. Four years after 9-11, our federal government has not devised a national strategy for dissolving the foreign oil chains that bind us to the world's dictators.
I, for one, have had enough. Next month in Bozeman, I am hosting a summit of seven governors along with state and national leading energy experts to discuss the future of domestic energy in both Montana and America. While only one of many promising solutions to America's dependence on foreign oil, coal-to-liquids technology is going to be a major topic of discussion at that conference. With an oil crisis in America and a war being waged in the world's oil center, it is time to invest in a clean, affordable American fuel. Working together, we Montanans will lead the way.