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Giving Compass' Take:
• Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Holly Jean Buck unpack the debate over the pros and cons of carbon capture, a potential but unproven solution to climate change.
• How can funders help to advance the conversation around carbon capture and other climate change solutions? Is more research needed to prove or disprove the potential of carbon capture technology?
The U.S. has heavily funded experiments with carbon capture and storage to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants since George W. Bush’s presidency.
Those efforts have not paid off, partly because of economics. Natural gas and renewable energy have become cheaper and more popular than coal for generating electricity.
Only a handful of coal-fired power plants are under construction in the U.S., where closures are routine. The industry is in trouble everywhere, with few exceptions.
In addition, carbon capture with coal has a bad track record. The biggest U.S. experiment is the US$7.5 billion Kemper power plant in Mississippi. It ended in failure in 2017 when state power authorities ordered the plant operator to give up on this technology and rely on natural gas instead.
Carbon capture and storage, however, isn’t just for fossil-fuel-burning power plants. It can work with industrial carbon dioxide sources, such as steel, cement and chemical plants and incinerators.
Then, one of two things can happen. The carbon can be turned into new products, such as fuels, cement, soft drinks or even shoes.
Carbon can also be stored permanently if it is injected underground, where geologists believe it can stay put for centuries.
Until now, a common use for captured carbon is extracting oil out of old wells. Burning that petroleum, however, can make climate change worse.
To be sure, not all environmentalists are writing off carbon capture and storage.
The Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, along with many other big green organizations, did not sign the letter, which objected not just to carbon capture and storage but also to nuclear power, emissions trading and converting trash into energy through incineration.
Rather than leave carbon removal technologies out of the Green New Deal, we suggest that more environmentalists consider their potential for removing carbon that has already been emitted. We believe these approaches could potentially create jobs, foster economic development and reduce inequality on a global scale – as long as they are meaningfully accountable to people in the world’s poorest nations.
Read the full article about the debate around carbon capture by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Holly Jean Buck at The Conversation.