On January 30, 2008, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding DoD's compliance with section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Section 526 basically prohibits federal departments and agencies from procuring fuels that have life-cycle carbon emissions that are "less than or equal to" those associated with conventional fuels. The provision was intended to preclude DoD -- and the Air Force in particular -- from entering into purchase contracts for CTL fuels.

The letter is notable because it suggests that Waxman believes that carbon must be "permanently stored" from CTL plants, and that DoD must extract "guarantees to this effect" from the project developer.

We do not know how a project developer can provide a contractual guarantee of the permanence of the geological storage of carbon dioxide under these circumstances.

There is a separate congressional debate raging regarding whether DoD's current authority to enter into 5-year purchase contracts should be extended to 20 years or more, thereby providing CTL developers with PPA-like bankable contracts to enable private sector financing of such facilities, but we will revisit that topic another day.