September 26, 2020 Read More →

CCS seen as ‘potential fix for fundamental unsustainability’ of fossil fuel industry

The New Republic:

Between 2010 and 2018, the Department of Energy poured $5 billion worth of research and development funding into carbon-capturing technologies, which aim to extract the greenhouse gas from power plants and other industrial activities, limiting the extent to which they warm the planet. In 2018, Congress also passed a generous tax break known as 45Q, encouraging companies to partake. This summer, however, the only coal-fired power plant capturing a meaningful amount of carbon in the United States—the country’s main showcase for that technology—unceremoniously closed down following months of inactivity. It’ll be “mothballed” (switched off) until market conditions improve.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, has, at best, a patchy track record. But it’s wildly popular in the fossil fuel industry as a potential fix for the fundamental unsustainability of its business model. This past week has been a big one for carbon capture boosterism. One bipartisan amendment in H.R. 4447—the massive energy bill being debated in the House of Representatives this week—will give companies another 10 years to collect an existing tax credit for carbon capturing and storing carbon. A report out this week from the Global CCS Institute and Columbia University’s Center on Energy Policy argues that boosting government support for CCS will be key to making the technology viable. It recommends additional tax breaks, grants, and R&D funding. The Global CCS Institute, to note, was started with funding from the traditionally coal-friendly Australian government, and its paying membership includes several national governments as well as most of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, among them ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy has received millions of dollars’ worth of donations from fossil fuel companies in recent years, including Cheniere Energy, BP, and ConocoPhillips. ExxonMobil, incidentally, announced on Tuesday that it’ll be expanding its carbon capture partnership with the company Global Thermostat.

Petra Nova’s closure, a recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis finds, comes after it received a $190 million investment from the DOE. Another carbon capture project that received generous investments from the DOE during the Obama administration, known as the Kemper Project, also failed after years of cost overruns and mismanagement, racking up $6.4 billion in losses. Ongoing carbon capture proposals for coal-fired power plants in New Mexico and North Dakota are now on shaky ground as well.

[Kate Aronoff]

 

More: Corporate America Is Irrationally Enthusiastic About Carbon Capture

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