More Synthetic Fuels Funding Needed / Says Ed Noble

Article excerpt

If Congress "pulls the plug" on three synthetic fuel projects without awarding another $744 million in subsidies, t he private sector will not invest in developing similar projects in the event of another fuel crisis, warned Ed Noble, chairman of the Synthetic Fuels Corp., on Friday.

Noble has required private companies to take some of the risk in synfuel projects before government money was committed.

To date, the corporation has spent $740 million and executed contracts with two projects. Three more are planned and Noble thinks another $744 million in commitments should be made before the quasi-government corporation he heads is abolished.

"The other three projects have been before the corporation for over three years," he said in an interview at the offices of The Journal Record.

"We've forced the companies to do a lot of design work. They've spent a lot of their own money. If you pull the plug now, you won't get the private sector putting their money in if we have another energy crisis," he said.

The projects are pilot projects that could save the nation a lot of time and money if the synthetic fuels are needed in the future. If the projects prove commercialy viable, national security couldbe insured in the event of another boycott occurs, he said.

"The United States has vast coal and oil shale resources which, if converted to liquids and gas," Noble said, "would be equivalent to five to six times the reserves of the entire Middle East.

"We must prove to the rest of the world that we can utilize these resources as gas and liquid fuels to sustain our economy and national defense.

"Once we establish this synfuels option, then we truly hold our destiny in our own hands," he said.

Noble wants to terminate the Synthetic Fuels Corp. just as congressional critics like Rep. Mike Synar, and has wanted to do so for a number of years.

He recommended the program be stopped when he headed President Reagan's transition team for the corporation in 1980. When the decision was made to continue the Synthetic Fuels Corp., Noble agreed to serve as chairman because of the strategic value of a proven synfuels option, he said.

The $88 billion the corporation was authorized was too much to spend, Noble said. The potential for abuse was too great.

"I have always believed that we can do the job necessary with a few well-designed, well-managed plants which demonstrate key conversion technologies at commercial scale for all the major solid fossil energy resources," he said.

Domestic coal and oil shale resources are equivalent to more than a trillion barrels of oil, he noted. …