The military and coal-to-liquids

You can make liquid fuels like gasoline, kerosene, and diesel out of all sorts of things by using the Fisher-Tropsh process. This is what Germany and Japan did during the second world war, when they had their access to imported oil curtailed.

Potentially, this could be good news for the climate. If we harvest biomass in a low-carbon way, then turn it into fuel in a low-carbon way, we could make biofuels suitable for use in aircraft and other vehicles in a way that is low- or even zero-carbon overall.

Unfortunately, a more likely application of the technology is coal-to-liquids (CTL). We might use the Fisher-Tropsch process to turn the world’s dirtiest and most dangerous fuel into forms that are valuable, convenient, and perfect for warming the planet.

In his latest column, Robert Rapier describes the risk that the armed forces of the United States Navy will turn to CTL in a major way, as oil becomes increasingly costly and expensive to acquire. The U.S. Air Force is also considering the technology.

The last thing the world needs is the ability to turn coal into more convenient types of fuel. That would lead to the burning of even more fossil fuels, which would in turn cause even more warming. And we are already committing ourselves to a dangerously large amount.

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