04/27/2007 01:47 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Today in Big Coal

The WSJ has a story today about the high hopes riding on the few large-scale carbon-capture demonstration projects under construction. The entire global political and economic elite desperately wants carbon sequestration to work, so they can keep us hooked up to the fossil fuel mainline. But as the WSJ notes, it's a tough row to hoe:

Unlike oil or gas fields, power plants aren't always conveniently located near geological formations where carbon dioxide can be stored. In many cases, pipelines will be needed to transport carbon dioxide over great distances to underground storage areas.

There are safety risks. Carbon dioxide could seep out of geological formations where it is warehoused and affect the surrounding environment.

And even proponents of the approach acknowledge that it could be as long as 20 years before carbon-capture technology could be applicable on a wide scale.

Sounds awesome! (Again, I refer you to Jeff Goodell's recent article on clean coal.)

In other Big Coal news, Big Coal has a vital role in our energy future, according to Big Coal:

"You're not serious about global carbon stabilization unless you're serious about increasing investment in coal technology," Steven Leer, chief executive of Arch, the second largest US coal miner, said Wednesday in an interview at a conference on coal's future.

In yet more coal news, coal companies want you to know that even though the first-gen gasification-and-sequestration technologies are not mature or deployed, they already have shiny new second-gen tech in the works. Ooh, shiny new tech, just around the corner! Sound familiar? Perhaps we should call it cellulosic coal.

And finally, Politico has a great article examining the sudden, frenzied battle over coal liquefaction (which, remember, is not the same as coal gasification). On one side: industry-friendly legislators, the coal industry, and mining groups. On the other: green groups. Sounds fair! This paragraph makes me want to cry:

In the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) is expected to offer an amendment that adds liquefied coal to a bill that would increase the current renewable fuels standard; under this law, a certain amount of fuel used for transportation must come from renewable fuels, such as ethanol. As introduced by committee chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and ranking member Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), the measure focuses only on biofuels, but Domenici and several other members have expressed support for broadening the standard to include liquefied coal.

OK, it's bad enough that we have a bill on "renewable fuels" that is focused almost entirely on biofuels. But adding coal to it? The semantic abuse alone boggles the mind.

And see if this sounds familiar:

Industry advocates say technological advances in the works now could be ready when the first coal-to-liquid plants open for business in five or six years.

Shiny new second-gen tech? Sign me up! Let's call it cellulosic liquefaction.