Hello Permanently Baffled: I have heard mention of this process before; in fact, Senator Kerry's website mentions this as part of his answer to the concept of breaking free of the dependence on foreign oil. I believe the process involves a lot of heat, possibly in the form of steam, being introduced into the coal seam itself. One of the things that niggles at me is "what is going to generate the heat to make the steam?" The second thing that bothers me is that it seems rather dangerous (understatement). I grew up in County Durham (colliery country), and coal fires kept me warm in my childhood. Once that coal got heated up, the oil would be released and there'd be a mini-explosion of flame. I think I'm sort of imagining that on a giant scale down a coal mine. Not good!
I suppose it would work to ease the transition away from oil, and perhaps together with wind and solar, it might help UK have a soft landing. I'm just so afraid that people will not internalize the fact that there really is no substitute for oil, and that any alternative measures should be viewed merely as stopgaps and not as bona fide replacements. Otherwise they will just think it's business as usual.
Anyway just my two cents... It's nice to be on a forum where people have their "oil-antennas" out all the time, zeroing in on important news like this, so people like me can come along and try to understand.