Tuesday, January 29, 2008

CCS: still a pipe dream

Carbon capture and sequestration [CCS] got a bit of press lately when the government of Alberta decided to throw the dice on a bit of technology that doesn't exist yet:
The "made-in-Alberta" plan says capture and underground storage will make up 70 percent of a targeted 200 megaton cut in emissions over the next 42 years.

"It acknowledges that as a global energy supplier, Alberta's greenhouse gas emissions will rise over the short term. But we will implement technology that exists today that will reduce our emissions over the medium and long term," Stelmach said.
So 70% of the planned goal should be discounted, because CCS simply doesn't exist yet. And I don't mean the way cheap solar power doesn't exist yet -- all the trends for the solar industry point that way, so it's reasonable to talk about solar power being economical by 2015 or so, even if oil, gas, and coal all stay cheap.

No, CCS is totally hallucinatory -- not only does it not exist in any industrial scale, nobody's even spending significant amounts of money on it.

But there's a very simple reason for this: coal is dead, or would be if subsidies were eliminated. Even modest carbon taxes make coal plants less economical than nuclear, and a full-up CCS plant would cost more than the equivalent solar power. (Think $0.20/kwh or more.)

If the coal industry is forced to pay for even a small amount the damage it does to the environment every year, the industry have to cease functioning. That simple.

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