Anyone channel surfing last night that happened upon 60 Minutes might have recognized a familiar face: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Last month, Grist published a story about Schweitzer, who is now promoting his latest big idea: turning Montana coal into a liquid diesel fuel.
It’s not enough to completely break our addiction to foreign oil, but a start. Most coal today is used for electricity but the governor’s plan is to turn Montana’s billions of tons of untapped coal into a liquid diesel fuel for our cars.
Schweitzer wants to take coal that’s been pressurized into a gas, and then use something called the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert that gas into a clean diesel fuel, similar to what is made at a demonstration plant in Oklahoma.
The governor handed Stahl a jar of this synthetic fuel, which looked and smelled clean. “Chanel No. 37,” Schweitzer said, laughing. “It is diesel. You can pour that in your diesel car or truck right now.”
Lesley Stahl also interviewed Dr. Robert Williams, a senior energy scientist at Princeton, who informed viewers that this fuel would be cleaner than conventional diesel since pollutants aren’t being emitted into the atmosphere, but a lot of carbon dioxide would be released — “twice as much carbon dioxide than traditional petroleum.”
So what is Schweitzer’s plan for dealing with the CO2?
“This spent carbon dioxide, we have a home for it. Right back into the earth, 5,000 feet deep,” the governor explains.
He plans to sell that carbon dioxide to oil companies that use it to boost the amount of oil they can pump. “It’s called enhanced oil recovery. It’s worth money to the oil business,” Schweitzer said.
Read more about the segment and watch a clip at CBSNews.com.