Monday, January 16, 2006

Afraid of Peak Oil? Try Thinking for a Change

The conversion of coal to liquid hydrocarbons has a long history. But only recently has the process become clean and efficient enough to make a difference. This newsrelease discusses a breakthrough in the coal to liquid fuel process.

Goldman explained that the breakthrough technology employs a pair of catalytic chemical reactions that operate in tandem, one of which captured the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This dynamic chemical duo revamps the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process for generating synthetic petroleum substitutes, invented in 1920 but never developed to the point of becoming commercially viable for coal conversion.

The FT process recently gained national attention through the efforts of Brian Schweitzer, governor of coal-rich Montana, who has been publicly extolling the potential of Fischer-Tropsch. The Goldman group's innovations eliminate shortcomings in the process that can finally make it a workable solution to dwindling domestic oil reserves.

"The key to energy independence in the next five decades is Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, amended and enhanced," said Goldman, a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. "The study of catalysts, the little molecular machines that control chemical reactions, is my field. With our new catalysts, one can generate productive, clean burning fuels with Fischer-Tropsch, economically and at unsurpassed levels of efficiency."

This discovery is reported in the April 14 issue of the journal Science by Goldman and his colleagues.

This link provides much detailed information on the Fischer-Tropsch process. For a briefer discussion, try this Wikipedia article.

The best sources of energy are renewable sources. But in the meantime, while gearing up for biofuels, solar, wind, tidal, OTEC, wave, etc., it is nice to see more evidence that all the doomseeking of the peak oil crowd is circular wrist flexion-extension.

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