Paris: Can CCS help us reach our goals?

At the heart of the commitment to slow global warming is the issue of maintaining a vital economy, both here in the United States and in countries around the world. Technology plays a major role in determining how effective one can be in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; one technology at the center of the debate is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Much of the discussion surrounding CCS is “yea” or “nay.” This is either due to parties with extremely polarized views or a cost/benefit result analysis – i.e., if significant funding is going to be invested then the technology should be capitalized on and used exclusively. According to Mike Duncan of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy:

“Those who believe it (coal) can be easily replaced are sticking their heads in the sand.”1

Could there be a middle ground?

If it were possible for the United States as a whole (or even by different grids) to identify those potential opportunities where the benefits of CCS could be maximized, i.e., available coal, available land area for a power plant, available geological storage, etc., then perhaps it wouldn’t have to be an either/or proposition. One glaring example would be a place like New Haven, West Virginia where there is a pilot project taking place now. An even more attractive example would be one located within a reasonable distance of an enhanced oil recovery operation where the CO2 would actually be utilized in the process in place of CO2 from natural sources.

A smaller number of new larger facilities strategically placed could enable the economy to continue growing; while at the same time older plants without carbon capture could be slowly phased out. In conjunction with this, renewables would be ramped up to make up for some of the lost capacity from the phased out power plants. Interestingly, there are not a lot of coal power plants in the pipeline in the United States, but the couple that are under construction are incorporating CCS.2

One concept that is clear across the board is that there is no one approach that is going to reduce carbon dioxide emissions enough to slow global warming. Many different approaches are needed, and at the same time the United States needs to remain competitive. Maintaining a coal industry, an industry which provides 37 percent of the fuel supply of the nation’s economy3, is in our best interests but needs to be done right.

Is a middle ground possible?

by, Laura Miller, Student in 425.601_FA15 (ESP Student)


  1. PBS report, EPA Proposal on Emissions May Be Regulation Launching Point
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