Gibbons' coal-as-fuel plan impractical, costly

Amid many of the subjects brought up in Gov. Jim Gibbons'State of the State speech earlier this month, which featured many good talking points and strategies for the next four years, one proposal has us scratching our heads.

In his address, the governor said he would encourage the creation of coal-to-liquids fuel plants in Nevada. Citing a visit with Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Gibbons said existing rail lines would transport coal to the plants and convert it to diesel and jet fuel. Usable natural gas is also a by-product of the coal to liquid process.

According to a 2005 article in the Billings Gazette in Montana, where coal-to-liquid technology is also being pursued, the process of converting coal into usable fuel is called Fisher-Tropsch. The technology has been used in other countries since the 1920s, and has been refined so its products and process are pollution-free. The technology is promising and could promote more efficient use of the country's largest source of electricity.

There's one problem, however - Nevada isn't a coal-producing state. The needed raw material would have to be shipped in from other states by train, burning fuel and using energy in the process. Building such a plant and purchasing coal would also require a significant investment.

Nevada has an abundance of power-producing natural resources, such as predominantly sunny weather, abundant wind and enough untapped geothermal energy to power millions of homes.

While wind turbines, fields of solar panels and geothermal plants are not aesthetically pleasing, the technology works and does not have to be imported. The best part is solar and wind energy are renewable. Nevada companies like Sierra Pacific Power offer incentives for businesses and residents that install solar panels.

We don't believe the state has tapped its own resources enough to justify importing another non-native substance into our state. While the coal-to-fuel process may be beneficial in reducing our country's dependence on foreign oil, it does little to wean us from fossil-based energy. When it comes to developing alternative energy sources, let's take advantage of the natural resources we have rather than ideas better suited for other locales.

- from the Lahontan Valley News


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