Rebecca McDonald.Photo: GittingsRebecca McDonald
CEO, Laurus Energy

No two words have been more controversial in clean-energy discussions than “clean coal,” but Rebecca McDonald, the 59-year-old CEO of Laurus Energy, may actually have the right to use them. A veteran of Enron, Amoco, and Duke Energy, McDonald is pioneering a method for underground coal gasification that produces a synthetic oil which can be turned into a low-carbon jet fuel or used in petrochemicals. She says the synfuel emits 33 percent less CO2 than natural gas and costs about 66 percent less to produce. It has yet to be proven on a commercial scale, but if it flies — yes, that’s a big if — it could change the way we look at coal. “Renewables may be able to tackle the power issue,” says McDonald, “but they can’t
create a synthetic barrel of oil.”