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MT “Liquid Coal” Cure for High Gas Prices?

June 23, 2008

Great Falls, MT - The search for a solution for record-high gas prices has revved up plans to turn Montana's coal reserves into liquid fuel, with a manufacturing plant planned for Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Dennis McGinn, a retired Vice Admiral and former First Deputy Chief of Naval Operations with the Pentagon, is a vocal critic of the plant because it will require billions of taxpayer dollars to launch. In terms of national security, McGinn believes there are better uses for public money.

"These are dollars that can be used to research and deploy great technology for energy efficiency."

Cost isn't the only issue, according to McGinn, because the Malmstrom plant would use more than seven million gallons of Montana water, every day. Instead, McGinn's opinion is that the nation should focus on how to use less gas and diesel. Conservation is the easiest place to start, he explains, because much of the research and development has already been done.

"We can make tremendous advances and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, just in terms of energy efficiency."

Other opponents of the plant point out that investors have walked away from coal-to-liquid projects because of the imbalance of cost versus production. Governor Schweitzer argues that it's worth considering, however. He says Montana's coal, in liquid terms, is more than one-quarter the size of the entire Middle East oil reserve, and could produce enough fuel to power every American car for decades.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MT