The Earth Institute at Columbia University -- With oil prices reaching near near-record highs in recent weeks, calls have grown louder for the U.S. to develop new sources of affordable, domestic energy. Work by experts from The Earth Institute at Columbia University suggests that relatively low-cost alternatives already exist to meet the country’s’ growing energy demand that would at the same time reduce the need to rely on oil supplies from the Middle East and Latin America.
A report published by Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University that appears in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity states that coal alone could satisfy the country’s energy needs of the twenty-first century. In particular, coal liquefaction, or the process of deriving liquid fuels from coal, is already being used in places and with expanded infrastructure could provide gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel at levels well below current prices. Moreover, they argue that environmental constraints such as increased carbon dioxide emissions arising from greater use of coal and other fossil fuels could be avoided for less than 1 percent of gross world product by 2050.
"[With widespread use of coal liquefaction] the long-term price of liquid hydrocarbon fuels may be lower than it is today, even allowing for pessimistic forecasts for oil and gas reserves," the authors write. "Even with the most conservative assumptions about learning curves, it appears quite safe to predict that the cost of synthetic oil from coal or other processes, after some transitional pains, will be below $30 per barrel." Sachs and Lackner also point out that the large deposits of coal in the U.S. and worldwide make it less prone to the political uncertainties that currently afflict world oil prices.
Ken Kostel | EurekAlert!
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