Senate Turns Back Attempts to Promote Dirty Liquid Coal

Senate Turns Back Attempts to Promote Dirty Liquid Coal


Nick Berning, 202-222-0748

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Senate today voted against two attempts to encourage the use of liquid coal, rejecting a pair of amendments to the energy bill that would have alternately mandated 6 billion gallons of liquid coal use annually by 2022 or provided $10 billion in loan subsidies to produce liquid coal.

“This is a victory for anyone who takes global warming seriously or cares about environmentally destructive mining,” said Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder. “Coal mining is a dirty process, and with current technology, liquid coal results in twice the greenhouse gas emissions of petroleum-based gasoline. We need an energy policy that helps fight global warming, and today’s votes were a step in that direction. Unfortunately, the energy bill as a whole is not where it needs to be. We will continue to work for the inclusion of stronger efficiency standards and cleaner sources of energy.”

The first of the two liquid coal amendments, sponsored by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), was defeated by a vote of 39 to 55. Considered the more egregious of the two by environmentalists, it would have mandated increasing amounts of liquid coal use in the U.S. beginning in 2016 and concluding with a 6 billion gallon annual requirement in 2022.

The second of the two, sponsored by Senator John Tester (D-MT), would have subsidized liquid coal production with a $10 billion loan program to fund carbon capture devices for liquid coal processing facilities. Such devices are intended to reduce global warming emissions, but they are an unproven technology that may not work, and they do nothing to address the pollution created when coal is mined. The amendment was defeated on a 33-61 vote.

Environmental groups and major newspaper editorial boards have come out strongly against liquid coal, and argued that the Senate should focus on other sources of energy, as coal mining is a pollution-intensive process, converting the coal into liquid emits large amounts of greenhouse gasses, and additional global warming emissions occur when the liquid coal is used as fuel. Experts estimate that replacing 10 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption with liquid coal would require a 43 percent increase in mountaintop mining.