I’ve got an op-ed on the Guardian‘s opinion site about — what else? — liquid coal. Here’s how it starts:

They say the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. But if there’s one thing the coal industry loves, it’s digging.

Generating electricity by burning coal has ravaged the climate, but it’s made coal barons in the US rich. They worried for a while that global warming would mean the end of the gravy train – they’re the ones who started the massive climate-change disinformation campaign back in the 1980s – but instead, to their delight, they’ve discovered that climate change is a gravy train itself.

They’re being showered with government subsidies to develop and deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), whereby the emissions from coal-fired power plants are collected and stored underground. It’s technologically precarious and enormously expensive, but with taxpayers footing the bill, what the hell?

Now they’ve got a new idea, and it’s audacious. They want taxpayers to fund the creation of another coal industry, one that that would generate liquid transportation fuel from coal (coal-to-liquids, or CTL). Of course, liquefying coal is every bit as dirty as burning it for electricity, so – this is the brilliant bit – they want US taxpayers to simultaneously fund a new set of carbon sequestration projects.

In one fell swoop, using public money to create a dirty industry and public money to clean it up, skimming hefty profits off the top. It’s like a two-rail bank shot of rent-seeking, a bamboozle almost without precedent. Even the ethanol guys must be impressed. You’d almost have to admire it, if it weren’t your money and your climate at stake.

Read the rest.