Air Force Drops Plans For Liquid Coal Plant

  • Published on February 3rd, 2009

coal in hand


The Air Force has abandoned its plans for building a coal-to-liquid plant to produce aircraft fuel. While the plan would have reduced foreign dependence, all those emissions would have kinda sucked.

In an effort to certify that all aircraft can use a 50-50 blend by 2011, the Air Force is currently purchasing fuel made by coal from Sasol of South Africa. Gary Strasburg, an Air Force spokesman, said that the B1, B52 and C-17 have all been certified to run on a coal-mix blend. The F-15, F-22, C-5 and KC-135 have all used the blend too.

But liquid fuel from coal produces more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as conventional fuel. It’s not realistic. It’s not even a stop gap solution!

And while environmentalists might be citing this as a win, the Air Force said the decision to not build the Montana-bound plant was due to…security. Ugh.  They cited a conflict between the plant and the base’s nuclear weapon storage. Strasburg said he couldn’t comment on whether there were environmental concerns for the decision at all. I am guessing…no.

Check out this article: Air Force Will Be Coal-Powered by 2011

A 2007 energy law requires that federal agencies not purchase fuels with greater greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum fuels.

Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said coal-to-liquid fuels “make no sense for a free economy” because they’re expensive and would require taxpayer funds to get them off the ground. “We have a very long history of trying to do this in the United States and it repeatedly results in subsidies from the public and inability to compete in any fair market place,” he said.

However, the Air Force is investigating advanced biofuels which would lower greenhouse gases.

Photo: © Pixelman |

About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.
  • When it comes to energy it is not an either or decision. Wind mills and solar are terribly costly to build and maintain and they require a lot of land in places that have wind and sun. While the US is blessed with money, windy places, sunny places and lots of pristine land, the same is not true for most countries in the world. Big, heavily popolated countries like China and India will burn coal and build nuclear plants as fast as they can. They will utimately set the global GHG emmission rate. Nothing we do in the US will offset their impact. Small, wealthy countrues with no indigenous fuels will build nuclear plants because they generate huge amounts of power in a small area and the fuel supply is not controlled as is the case with oil and gas. Poor countries, well, they will continue to struggle destroying whatever parts of the environment they have to in order to survive and killing others to get their sources.

    The world is an ecosystem that ignores national boubndaries. We have only a few choices. We can abolish all national soverinty and develop a highly efficient global energy standard. We can be smug and make ourselves a clean, non-emmitting country and watch the rest of the world poison the planet or we can refine all of the energy technologies so that we can assit each nation in developing the energy forms that best satisfy their geographic, financial and technological realities. As much as I admire the vision of John Lennon, option one is not really an option. Option two serves no purpose other that to assure us honorable mention in the earth's obituary. Option three requires the US and other "blessed" nations to do the science and to help every other country on earth to achieve its best and cleanest energy alternatives. We can not dictate, we can not lead by example; neither of these have worked.

    So please put aside the bitter winner-loser debates and the failed non-proliferation policies and let's get busy working to optimize each and every energy alternative and make that information, technology and hardware available to all. When it comes to energy alternatives, politicians have said, "we need them all" and for once, truer words could not be uttered. You may say I am a dreamer but when it comes to the air we breathe and the water we drink "we" are all one.

  • Hard to know what's really going on without the inside scoop. The security issue mentioned above doesn't make much sense, and in the worse case it would only relate to a specific site, not the program in general.

    The reality is, as much as we would like to turn coal into liquid fuel (considering our vast resources of coal) using coal in any manner generates a disproportionate level of pollution and CO2 emissions and is not a long term sustainable solution, and there is no technology at present or on the horizon that will change that equation.

    Previous comment is perplexing, as there is no threat to national security by canceling the coal-to-gas project.

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  • Robert

    What a relief that they aren't going to have green house gas emissions. And all we had to do was compromise national security in order to let a bunch of save the world morons sleep better tonight. I bet if we stopped running police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, WE COULD REALLY SAVE ON EMISSIONS!