Could Luring Manchin Boost Coal to Liquid Plant?

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

In exchange for switching to the Republican party, FoxNews reports, Republicans are reportedly offering Senator-elect Joe Manchin, current West Virginia governor, support for a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.

It's one of Manchin's pet projects and could mean big money for the state's coal producers.

"Republicans believe in an 'all of the above' approach to energy," one top Senate aide told Power Play. "And coal-to-diesel could certainly be part of that."

That plant would be built and operated in Mingo County, West Virginia, by Transgas. "This project's success will truly be far-reaching for the coal industry," Governor Manchin said last month.

Making diesel fuel out of coal without capturing the carbon releases twice as much carbon into the atmosphere per gallon of final product as refining gasoline from crude does, Princeton University energy expert Robert Williams told ScienceInsider.

If the plant were to capture the carbon dioxide produced during the production of the fuel, the emissions would roughly equal the emissions from traditionally refined diesel. But a close read of the draft permit and engineering evaluation by the West Virginia Gazette showed that the project has no plans to do so:

"Whatever the permitting process tells us to do is what we'll do," the developer told the paper. Victor said, while conceding that federal and state laws place no limits on carbon dioxide emissions to the air.

The technique is currently used to make 140,000 gallons per day of diesel in facilities owned by Sasol in South Africa. The U.S. Air Force was considering mandating the procurement of fuel using the technique but it has backed away from its plans.

Manchin has denied that he is mulling a party switch, and Senate Republican leadership has denied the story as well.

Posted in Policy