3E Intelligence

Remember the biofuels fairy tales which in the span of one year turned into one big nightmare when more scientists started to look a little deeper and the media started reporting about its connection to the new food crisis? It looks like the energy industry’s new “wunderkind”, carbon capture and storage, might follow the same path.

I have expressed my doubts about CCS in previous posts and some great recent articles have confirmed my skepticism.

At the Gristmill blog, Joseph Romm (who in the nineties worked for the energy department of the Clinton administration) has produced one of the best overviews of critical voices on CCS (“Coal in question. Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?). Citing several recent studies, Romm concludes:

The bottom line is that we should continue to pursue CCS research, development, and demonstration in a serious effort to turn this long-term strategy into a medium-term one. But efficiency, wind, solar PV, and baseload solar are where we should be placing the big deployment dollars right now.”

On the Post-Carbon Institute blog, Richard Heinberg is even more critical. His article “Delay and Fail” cites energy guru Vaclav Smil (for me the most brilliant energy expert in the world – read his “Energy at the Crossroads“):

The technology exists only in the sense that its components have been demonstrated on a small scale. Deploying it broadly would require the development of an infrastructure that would require trillions of dollars of investment and decades of work. According to Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, in a recent letter to Nature, we would need to handle a volume of CO2 twice as large as the world’s crude oil flows just to sequester one quarter of carbon dioxide emitted in 2005 by large stationary sources“.

Heinberg’s conclusion:

CCS is essentially a “delay and fail” strategy by the coal industry. By selling the idea of “clean coal,” the industry delays an energy transition away from fossil fuels, while setting itself up for an eventual failure of the entire CCS project. By the time that the failure is clear and obvious, there will be no alternative: the coal plants will have been built, the money invested. We’ll burn more coal, and to hell with the climate.

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