President Barack Obama gave a powerful call to action on energy and climate, and he has given the order to halt Bush’s final rules. But if he really wants to send a quick, strong signal that he intends to preserve a livable climate, he should intervene immediately to stop the Pentagon’s toxic dalliance with liquid coal.

As reported by Air Force Times on Tuesday:

The future of a synthetic fuel plant that would power fighters and cargo planes with processed coal will be announced this week.

The Air Force decided on Friday whether to move ahead with a plan to build a synthetic fuel plant at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

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Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the inauguration, Air Force spokesman Gary Strasburg said the decision will not be released until Wednesday.

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(Note: I can’t find any notice of this decision on Google News or Montana newspapers.)

UPDATE: My sources say the decision “has been delayed.”

This is simply a terrible idea (see here), especially since clean alternatives are on the way “Boeing: Jet biofuel in three years“).

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Obama said in his powerful inaugural address: “we will work tirelessly to … roll back the specter of a warming planet.” That can’t be done running your Air Force on liquid coal:


Obama should kill this plant if the Air Force doesn’t, and then immediately make clear that America is not going to run its military on a fuel that itself worsens the greatest national security threat.

The proposal is part of the Air Force’s Enhanced Use Lease program, which allows a private company to lease space on military bases in exchange for base infrastructure improvements.

The owners of the proposed plant at Malmstrom would pay the Air Force in fuel.

This is just a clever way to get around the impossible economics of liquid coal — although given the current low price of oil, it is inconceivable that this liquid coal plant makes any sense for the Air Force today.

If the decision on Friday turned out to be a positive one, then we know the fix will have been in by the liquid-coal military industrial complex. But then, the Air Force has been fooling itself and trying to fool the public for a long time under President Bush.

The Air Force plans to certify all its airframes on domestic synthetic fuel by 2011 and has been checking off test flights steadily: The B-52, C-17, B-1 and F-15 have all flown with a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and coal-derived diesel.

The service is responsible for 10 percent of aviation fuel consumption in the country and spends billions a year on jet fuel.

The Air Force’s stated goal is to fly all planes with the 50-percent blend by 2016.

Ending this self-destructive vision for the Pentagon should be one of Obama’s easier decisions.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.