Coal gassification did not take off in the early '80s, even after the heavy subsidies enacted for it during the Carter Administration,
Thats true for the 80's. This is 2005 and we know that the Hubbert curve is correct and coal bed gas retorting and JP-90 production is already a "boutique" industry. Photovoltaic cells are becoming very efficient and cheap, methyl clathrate mining is looked on seriously as a commercially viable activity.
However, given the unfilled demand for natural gas in this country, I cannot believe that, if such a process existed, it wouldn't be instantly deployed.
It is being exploited.
Its still far easier to exploit gas fields by the ancient art of drilling than retorting for coal gas or JP90 or coal diesel.That doesnt mean that these techs shouldnt be supported.In coal bed diesel production or JP-90 prep One can do the esterification by reacting directly in the coal bed by applying water jet technology(All you need is a way to increse permeability and a way to deliver a"wet methoxide". In the 80s the field of advanced oxidation wan "oxidation pyrolysis" were also not available, today, they are standard tools to clean up organics in ground.
There were a lot of things that were considered impossible in the 80's. I dont think that the present impediments are technological as you intimate. The oil companies have a vested interest in squeezing out the last drops of oil at significantly lesser rates of recovery and therefore significantly higher prices such that the costs of production, cracking, and delivery are exceeded by an increasing delta of profitThe arguments that the oil companies are using to justify these obscene profits are just an example of "the big lie".
We are beginning to become the "type section" definition of fascism rather than a Democratic Republic, and oil is one industry that,by its vertical ownership, and "overtly friendly governmental policies" has become the poster child of "we dont want no steenkin alternative energy". Just look at how uncreative the present attempt at an energy bill has been expressed. Its a joke .
This is an area where the science and engineering has far outstripped the market expression.
As far as multiple cycle gas turbine megawatt stations, your characterization is less than correct. Combined cycle gast turbines are being sited all up and down the EAst Coast in anticipation of an increased gas production based on exploration that never materialized. The new Trenton gasfield has more capacity than the biggest gas fields in the world and its in Pa, W Va, and NY Trenton limestones. Its a huge field and its capped in favor of siting temporary LNG facilities that, to me and my cycnical way of looking at things, are knowingly being pursued just to "fire up" the environmentalists while keeping gas high. I invested in gas stocks in the mid 90s when it looked like exploration was gonna be curtailed (1996) to be correct (Clinton was as much a part of the cabal as is the Cheney administration)
I read the oil and gas news and I suggest you do likewise. We are , at the post peak of the Hubbert curve, nobody disagrees with this. However, the "extension of the peak years" can be accomplished by a number of techy applications that, just because it would release more energy at a rate that would drop prices per cu ft, would not be welcome by the GAS BARONS.
I know, I sound like Im raving,but even the "insider" magazines like Geotimes are a bit embarrased at how the resource is being distributed . Im still a bit too close to oil production and energy exploration and the mere fact that we are stretching out the resource at exhorbitant and obscene returns is, to this old GAs field enumerator, a totally artificial thing, and it has NOTHING to do with the hurricane and cracking capacity.
Google up John Rich and Jp90, there george.You can see that in the last 25 years , weve made significant advance in hydrocarbon conversion. I remember 25 years ago, I had a computer with like a 20 meg harddrive and we used something called "film" in cameras. The big technology debate back then was whether VHS or "Beta" was gonna dominate the video market and "laptop" computers weighed a ton.