How clean are coal-to-liquids? Does it really matter?

Paul Hodges, in his excellent chemicals and the economy blog, talks about the recent Shenhua Energy listing on the Shanghai stock exchange and how it shares jumped by 93% following the IPO.
Now it has ample cash to pursue its ambitions.
Shenhau is just one of numerous companies involved in coal-to-liquids projects in China which will provide transportation fuels and also methanol-to-olefins production through to polymers. Cash will not be an objective for a sector which is expected to see Yuan60bn worth of investment in 2006-10
The US is also looking at making much more use of its coal reserves to boost energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
But just how environmentally friendly are coal-to-liquids technologies? According to the non-profit organisation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, it makes more CO2 sense to refine oil – Download file
However, in the end will the solutions we seek to the peak oil crisis be driven more by energy security issues than environmental concerns?
And when the Greenland ice sheet has collapsed into the ocean, Shanghai has been submerged and hundreds of millions of people have been displaced by the global rise in sea levels, how secure will we feel?

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