Shattered Hopes for Synfuels

A flagship energy project is threatened with a shutdown

For most of this century, Beulah, N. Dak., was a sleepy prairie town with two grocery stores and a pair of gas stations. Founded in 1913 and named for the niece of the region's largest landowner, Beulah was populated mostly by farmers and coal miners. Then, in 1978, the Department of Energy announced that it would finance a $2.1 billion commercial synthetic-fuels plant, the first in the U.S., to be built on the outskirts of Beulah. Operated by a five-member consortium of energy companies, including Tenneco and Transco Energy, the 600-acre project would turn coal into natural gas and be the...

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