September 4, 2006
A Proven Way to Lessen Dependence on Foreign OilBy Jonathan D. Strong
Until recently, the plan (such as it is) for reducing America (and the world's) dependence on oil from foreign sources, mainly in the Middle East, has been to find more sources of domestic oil and oil from friendlier, non—OPEC countries. This hasn't been a terrible strategy in theory, but the political left has hampered this effort by refusing to allow drilling in such places as ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico. But the number of undiscovered or untapped oil resources close to home does not appear to be not as abundant as we would hope.
America still remains the third largest producer of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, but its thirst for oil cannot be quenched by domestic supplies alone. America now imports more oil from Canada than from any other country, but that still is not enough.
But all is not gloomy. In fact, a technology was developed in the 1930's — by the Nazis — to produce oil from coal. Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels in the world and can be mined relatively easily. Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Montana have huge reserves of coal. And now, the governor of Montana wants to take that old technology and use it in America to produce oil for less cost and from domestic sources.
Montana has 2.4 billion tons of coal, which could produce mass quantities of oil for years to come. The cost is relatively reasonable too, about $30—$35 per barrel of oil from coal. That's a lot more reasonable than $70 from Saudi Arabia, especially when it probably only costs them $5 to produce, leaving a healthy profit to donate to extremists around the world.
But get this,
What are we waiting for? I'm not one for conspiracy theories, by any means, but if governments in Canada, the US, and Europe don't jump all over this then I'll start believing in a huge conspiracy with Exxon Mobile, BP, Shell, and every other company that's been milking us on high gas prices for the last few years.
Of course, there will be detractors and opposition to this new source of energy. Global Warming Theorists will tell us that the coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels and that we need other cleaner options, or that coal mining will destroy environmentally sensitive areas, yadda yadda yadda. But the fact remains that alternatives to oil are not available at this point in history. While it would be great if we could all use fuel cells, wind and solar power, and bio—diesel, the feasibility of using such energy sources is not great in quantities sufficient to make a big difference. An option now exists that is comparable or cleaner to traditional oil refining that can free us from foreign sources, and that's a start.
So how does coal liquefaction work?
Its not just Schewitzer who finds this interesting, the Chinese do as well. China plans to launch a coal—liquefaction program in the next 5 years.
In South Africa, they're already making it work:
So we have a proven technology that works and will save us money. The refining process does not pollute, and we can eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern energy. What are we waiting for? Such possibilities should result in a national effort to change the way we produce energy. This is essential for our future security and the well being of future generations. Not only that, but not having to buy oil from corrupt regimes in the Middle East would eliminate huge amounts of money that are funneled to terrorists each year.
The benefits would extend to South America as well, the Chavez government would have less money to sustain its corrupt political machine and might be replaced by a pro—American government which believes in free trade and integrity in government. Russia and China would have less need to appease the tyrannical regimes in the Persian Gulf for the sake of their own energy security; they could start their own coal liquefaction programs since both nations have huge reserves of coal. Germany, Britain, France, and other European nations would no longer be tied to Arab oil either, and the Japanese could buy from Russia, America, Canada, Britain, Germany, or other coal—rich country.
The potential for a new world exists with this old technology. Whether that world would ultimately be safer than our current reality is unforeseeable, but I think it's worth a try. The status quo of energy dependence on OPEC and corrupt Gulf States does not have to continue. There is a way out, with old but proven technology.
Ronald Reagan once said,
Coal liquefaction might help make terrorism and Islamic—fascism obsolete by choking the manner in which they are fed. What better way to promote a new Middle East?
Jonathan D. Strong is the proprietor of The Strong Conservative.