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Can We Run Our Cars on Coal?

There would be no oil shortage if we could use our coal, since we have LOTS of it. But burning it releases greenhouse gases, and what we need most is a clean way to power cars.

Researchers Burt Davis and Rodney Andrews are exploring ways to increase the efficiency of converting coal to liquid fuel. Davis says, "North America is one of the world's largest coal-reserve regions. Its petroleum is declining, but coal is still the largest resource. If the United States is to become independent from foreign sources of petroleum, it has to make it from oil shale, coal or both. We have about equal amounts of reserves of oil shale and coal, at the current rate of usage, to be able to generate petroleum substitutes for the United States for the next 200 years."

Andrews says that the process, which was based on formulas developed by two German chemists in the 1920s, is already proven to be successful, both scientifically and commercially and "it's been used in South Africa for several decades." He and Davis are exploring ways to reduce or capture the CO2 that is generated by current conversion methods. Andrews says, "One of the concerns coming out right now is CO2 emissions. When you convert carbon-rich coal into a more hydrogen-rich diesel fuel, you produce carbon dioxide...You don't want to produce any more than you have to." What they DON'T talk about is whether or not the liquid fuel produced from coal produces less?or more?greenhouse gases than fossil fuel when it's burned in automobiles. Since coal, like corn-based ethanol, is an inexpensive alternative that is available right here in the US, this is another alternative that will be heavily promoted by vote-seeking politicians, but the global warming question is an important one that needs to be asked.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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