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Amid questions, Canada budget pushes carbon capture with new tax credit

April 28, 2021


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a young technology — but it’s already a major flashpoint in the political argument over how to approach climate change.

On the one hand, it’s one of the only technologies out there with the potential to reverse some of the damage already done to Earth’s climate — by (perhaps, one day) scrubbing carbon directly from the atmosphere and rendering it harmless. (Trees do something like that already, of course.)

It also can clean up the high-emissions industrial processes — such as cement manufacturing — that the world will still need after we all stop burning coal.

On the other hand, many environmentalists suspect that carbon capture is a distraction thrown up by energy companies desperate to avoid ending their dependence on fossil fuels. Some question its benefits — and most reacted negatively to its inclusion in the recent federal budget.

Critics say re-purposing the carbon to extract more oil undermines the environmental logic of CCS projects.

“It ends up producing more oil, which in turn is then burned or used as an industrial feedstock, both of which emit CO2,” said David Schlissel of the Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. He authored a recent study of Boundary Dam 3’s CCS operations.

“When SaskPower claims that they’ve saved four million metric tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere, technically that’s true, but only if you apply it to the Boundary Dam plant.

“If you look at the full cycle, you need to take into account the extra CO2 that’s produced from burning the new oil.”

[Evan Dyer]

More: Ottawa’s promising a tax credit for carbon capture – but is the tech worth the money?

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