Short story: To reduce America's imported oil usage (not total, just imported) by 1/12th, or 8.33 percent, by using Montana coal in the Fischer-Tropsch process, would require two and a half times as much water as the entire annual flow of the Tongue River.
If it's wrong for Dick Cheney-sponsored coalbed methane to suck dry the watershed of the neighboring Powder River, then it can't be right for Schweitzer to want to do even worse to the Tongue River, can it?
Environmental problem details below the fold.
The only commercial-scale coal-to-liquids plants in the world are operated by Sasol, a South African corporation with its roots in the apartheid era. Sasol's coal-to-liquids plants emit huge quantities of a long list of airborne, liquid, and solid wastes. Sasol is converting its operations to produce liquid fuels from natural gas rather than coal to reduce environmental impacts.
Sasol officials outlined the environmental benefits of switching from coal to natural gas at Sasolburg:
- Elimination of hydrogen sulfide emissions.
- Sulfur dioxide emissions lowered by 15,000 tons per year.
- Nitrogen oxide emissions lowered by 10,000 tons per year.
- Carbon dioxide emissions lowered by 47%, or five million tons per year.
- Particulates lowered by 25%.
- Fine ash reduced 73%.
- Solid waste reduction of 50%.
- Water consumption reduced 27% - 30%.
After that comes an excellent reference chart noting just how much water would be needed for a one million barrel/day of oil offset industry and 20.000 and 80,000 barrel/day individual plants.
One million bpd of Fischer-Tropsch industry would require half again as much water as the entire Tongue River annual flow. Not to mention all the pollutants listed above.
And, what will the cost be for scrubbers for all the airborne pollutants? The land reclaimation cost for the rock/soil byproduct pollutants?