David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue has been on a kick for some time to replace foreign oil with coal.
He brought this up again on August 16 on Glenn Beck’s program on CNN. Scroll down about 40% of the way on this transcript to get to that point. For some more substance, click here to see JetBlue’s presentation on the subject
In short, we have a whole bunch of coal in the US, about 240 billion tons. Through gasification and then liquification using the Fischer Tropsch process (read the presentation to learn what the heck this is), we can turn that into about 800 billion barrels of synthetic fuel. Oh, and it’s very clean to produce and clean to burn.
It will apparently cost about a buck a gallon to produce, far cheaper than what we’re seeing today. The biggest issue that there’s huge capital cost to building the plants to make it, and that’s where Neeleman’s crusade really begins.
He proposes that the government step in and guarantee the capital investment. So if the price of fuel drops to between $38 and $18 a barrel, the government will make up the shortfall. On the other hand, if fuel is above $75 a barrel, the government would collect 25% of all revenues above that point. Here’s the bill that’s being proposed now.
It all sounds great, but will it work? Well, it seems like it might, but it’s not a permanent solution. It just puts off the ultimate requirement to find renewable sources by a long time.
In 2005, we imported 3.67 billion barrels. That was half our total usage. Let’s say the demand grows 3.5% a year. That means we’ll be able to use that coal until just after 2065 when it’s gone. And that assumes we can keep up our production of domestic oil. If that subsides, we’ll need to step up our coal usage.
Anyway, it’s interesting and can give us some breathing room in developing a sustainable solution, but it’s not going to solve everything.