I’ve written before about the economic and environmental nightmare that is liquid coal. If I were a governor and an energy company proposed opening a liquid coal plant in my state, I would marshal every resource available to fight it off. You get a few dozen jobs in the short-term; in the long-term, you get intense pollution, a bad reputation, and a facility that is almost certain to be rendered an economic lemon by carbon regulations, thus setting up the need for ongoing corporate welfare. Hard to imagine a worse idea.
West Virginia governor Joe Manchin obviously disagrees. Rather than fighting off the coal-to-liquid plant proposed by Appalachian Fuel LLC (a joint venture of Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy Inc. and Houston-based Synthesis Energy Systems Inc.), his administration has offered to ply it with a jaw-dropping $200 million in tax breaks and subsidies — as Ken Ward Jr. writes, "about $3.3 million in government incentives for each of the 60 jobs the facility would provide."
Of course, the Manchin administration is hardly proud of its proposal — it tried to keep the offer secret. Ward Jr. (who kicks ass, by the way) had to finagle it out through disclosure laws.
You can listen to an interview with the president of CONSOL Energy’s coal group, Pete Lilly, here. In it, he admits that the carbon sequestration is quite speculative and "whether a five-year time frame is the exact time frame I’m unsure." He says we might have sequestration technology ready to export to other countries in, oh, 10-15 years. (Interview, and more info on the plant, via The Rural Blog.)
We’re entering an era that will see extraordinary attention focused on finding clean energy and increasing energy efficiency. Deals like this ensure that states like West Virginia relegate themselves to the status of backwater — the equivalent of a third world country in the U.S.
Aren’t West Virginians tired of that?