Issue May 6, 2008

New report dumps carbon capture

If you thought the idea of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and burying them deep in the ocean was absurd on its face, Greenpeace says you were right.

A new report by the environmental group confirms the suspicions of sober coal observers the world over, saying the concept of carbon capture and storage is unstudied, unsafe and unhinged.

“Carbon capture and storage is a scam,” Emily Rochon, the author of the report, which was released Monday, said in a statement. “It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream. Governments and businesses need to reduce their emissions — not search for excuses to keep burning coal.”

Among other flaws, CCS technology has not been tested on a scale large enough to accommodate even the smallest coal-fired power plant, the report says. The latest estimates say CCS technology would be ready for commercial application by 2030, a full 15 years after the time some of the world’s leading climate scientists have said world carbon output needs to peak and begin its decline.

One of the most shocking revelations in the report is the estimated amount of energy that would be consumed conducting CCS: For every four power plants employing the current version of CCS, a new plant would have to be constructed to capture and store the carbon.

“This report confirms what we really already know but our elected officials won’t admit: that carbon capture and storage is a false promise that is not going to solve our climate crisis, is not going to help Kentucky communities,” Mary Love, a member of the social justice group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth who lives in LaGrange, said. KFTC has been a leading advocate on coal issues in Kentucky.

The Greenpeace report also urges Congress to stop awarding federal dollars to study and develop CCS technologies, and instead to shift the focus onto sustainable power sources, such as wind
and solar.

“At best it is a long-term solution to an immediate problem; it is not where we need to be putting resources,” Love said. “If industry wants to continue to work on CCS, let them continue to do that. But let’s put our tax money into renewable energy and conservation.” —Stephen George