Are Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Technologies Worth Pursuing?

Adam Stein

Energy Policy and Climate

Expected graduation year: 2017

 

Are Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Technologies Worth Pursuing?

 

 

Carbon capture technologies show promise, but there are many unanswered questions. We must ask how the costs of CCS could be reduced drastically, since an enormous investment is required to install a carbon capture system in an existing coal-fired power plant. In Beyond the Light Switch – Coal, Ernest Moniz states that most coal power plants do not have the land necessary to build carbon capture systems, and the narrator mentions that these systems would need to be the size of the power plants themselves in order to capture all the carbon dioxide produced. Moniz also mentions that the carbon capture machinery requires about a third of the power produced by the plant.

 

Many would argue that installing carbon capture systems at coal power plants would help save thousands of American jobs, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I have a rebuttal to this claim. It is certainly true that saving the coal industry would preserve economic stability for many regions and towns in the U.S. However, I argue that most, if not all of the workers in the coal industry have a skill set that is transferrable to other energy and industrial sectors, including renewables. The country as a whole benefits from the climate impacts of cleaner energy, and workers could grow a new career in an up-and-coming field where their overall health could benefit as well, since working in the coal industry has negative human health effects that are not present in clean energy industries. Coal employees could easily learn a safer, more fulfilling trade.

 

I believe that carbon capture and sequestration is a better solution to mitigating climate change than no solution at all, but I do not think that it is a viable or sustainable climate change mitigation strategy moving forward for the U.S., and certainly not the entire world. After viewing the PBS video EPA Proposal on Emissions May Be Regulation Launching Point, it becomes clear that the EPA plan for promoting carbon capture to regulate emissions for coal power plants may have pitfalls and weaknesses. CCS will never take off without effective regulation from the federal government requiring or incentivizing its use. The amount of investment, R&D, and time that it would take to instill carbon capture internationally on a large scale could be utilized more efficiently in developing and constructing existing renewable energy technologies and discovering new renewable energy technologies. After all, the ultimate end goal is an energy source that inherently produces zero carbon emissions, and carbon capture appears to be an attempt to salvage an outdated fossil fuel technology.

 

 

 

 

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