This statement from Obama is a welcome clarification of his position on liquid coal: he says he won’t support it unless it demonstrates “at least 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels.”

The key term, of course, is “life-cycle.” Unless he’s weaseling, that means the whole shebang, from mining to refining to burning. This is a clear line in the sand, and Obama’s to be commended for it.

But.

It still dodges the crux of the issue: opportunity costs. The technology exists to get CTL down to a 20% emissions reduction from gasoline, but if all of it is implemented, the resulting fuel will be fantastically expensive. The only way it won’t price itself right out of the market is if it receives billions and billions in taxpayer subsidies.

So the crucial question here is not “could CTL be done in a way that reduces emissions over gas,” or “would CTL displace some foreign oil,” but “would taxpayer dollars spent on CTL produce greater emission reductions and displace more foreign oil if spent elsewhere?” The answer to that question is incontrovertibly yes, and for that reason CTL subsidies simply can’t be justified on the basis of the public interest.

I understand why Obama’s trying to finesse this, but he isn’t running for president of Illinois. It’s time for some frank talk with America. Coal is the enemy of the human race.