Montana's governor wants to solve America's rising energy costs using a technology discovered in Germany 80 years ago that converts coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.
The Fischer-Tropsch technology, discovered by German researchers in 1923 and later used by the Nazis to convert coal into wartime fuels, was not economical as long as oil cost less than $30 a barrel.
But with U.S. crude oil now hitting more than double that price, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's plan is getting more attention across the country and some analysts are taking him very seriously.
Montana is "sitting on more energy than they have in the Middle East," Schweitzer told Reuters in an interview this week.
"I am leading this country in this desire and demand to convert coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. We can do it in Montana for $1 per gallon," he said.
"We can do it cheaper than importing oil from the sheiks, dictators, rats and crooks that we're bringing it from right now."
The governor estimated the cost of producing a barrel of oil through the Fischer-Tropsch method at $32, and said that with its 120 billion tons of coal -- a little less than a third of the U.S total -- Montana could supply the entire United States with its aviation, gas and diesel fuel for 40 years without creating environmental damage.
What it might be, however, is a good route to transition. As we develope the new renewable energy economy based on resources that won't run out, such as wind, water, and solar, a short term solution to do nothing more than reduce prices might be necessary. We cannot develope the technology we need to get oil off our backs overnight, and Schweitzer might be onto something in terms of short term cost reductions.