I just remembered. They've been doing this in New Zealand for years now (the last step anyway). Was that already said? Didn't bother to read the thread, as I'm guessing most of it isn't related to the original post.
Anyway for clarification, I will use a similar technology as an example(also related to energy production). They do this with catalysts. (Like the catalytic converter on your car). Basically there's compounds we make that help chemical reactions get over the "hump" of equilibrium (the point at which a useful percentage of the molecules involved in the reaction "decide" to react with each other).
The reasons why we have to do this are really to complex to explain outside of a chemistry class, but in practice it can be used for all kinds of things. The production of ammonium nitrate (fertilizer), for example, would not be worth the cost of making it without a catalyst. The catalysts in your catalytic converter are used so that the breaking down of harmful chemicals in your exhaust can be made to happen with just the heat of burning the gasoline, instead of a separate and energy-wasting heat source.
Finally, in this case, they use catalysts (I believe it's a class of them called zeolytes?) to help reduce the amount of energy used to cause the reaction to happen, to a level that's lower than the amount being produced. So you're actually getting a gain and not just wasting coal and natural gas making gasoline.
If they really just wanted to make coal into gasoline, we already have a process for liquefying it (thank the Nazis). But gasoline made this way is terribly pollutive.
Didn't go to the college of pharmacy just to learn what I could get high off of after all...Edited by un-midas touch - 10/25/12 at 11:21pm