Is CCS just a smokescreen for inaction?

My Clean Break column today takes shots at the hype surrounding carbon capture and storage technologies, which politicians and industry cling to when asked what they’re doing to reduce greenhouse gases. Separating CO2 from coal plant emissions and oil sands production and sequestering it underground can technically be done, there’s no question. But beyond lots of talk and a handful of tiny pilot projects, it’s not being done in a way that would suggest it will save us from climate change anytime soon. Even if we do prove it can work on the massive scale required, there’s no indication at this point that we have the manpower and resources required to do it. The danger here is that the public is being told about the potential of CCS and in the process being given false assurances that action is being taken. Meanwhile, Rome burns. Citizens — voters — have to start demanding more immediate actions from industry, and this will only come by forcing our governments to impose a carbon tax ASAP. Like grand promises 10 years ago of a hydrogen economy and all the wonderful cleanliness that comes with it, CCS is merely another buzz phrase being exploited to pacify a concerned public. This, in my opinion, is reckless.

8 thoughts on “Is CCS just a smokescreen for inaction?”

  1. We either need to implement a tax or cap very soon, or at least put in place a ban on new major CO2 sources such as coal fired plants and oil sands operations. Even CCS ready coal plants are likely to just be a way of then demanding more subsidies at some undetermined time in the future.

    Sharing the burden of addressing the sunk costs of infrastructure put in place decades ago seems reasonable. However, any company investing in CO2 intensive infrastructure now or in the last five years should bare the full economic costs of having done so. Be that the costs of implementing CCS without subsidy or the cost of shutting down production.

  2. The money hose has swung away from energy conservation, instead spraying new construction, adaptation, soverienty, diseases, emissions from fossil production, new energy sources, sequestration etc. What we instead need to be concentrating on is getting our existing systems footprint as low as possible. A good first step would be retrofitting our city’s buildings, industrial commercial and residential. At the same time we should be working on carbon negative solutions.

    We’ve known about climate change for 30 years, instead of doing something we collectively shoved it forward onto future generations. If I had my way a class action suit representing coming generations would be leveled against those who stand and have stood in the way, both private and governnmental. Screw subsidies.

  3. The hype on sequestration is incredibly frustrating to hear, and now we have Alberta – banking on sequestration as a way to achieve a 14% reduction by 2050, from 2005 CO2 emissions, I can’t wait until the public realizes how badly they are being served by government that is not leading them to a sustainable future, but instead dragging mine and millions of other children to a terrible future.

    A middle east carbon sequestration project will target 4 key local industries with a $4 billion US project, to capture 15 MT /year of CO2 – or $266/tonne. And they admit these are the “low hanging fruit” tonnes. What madness!

    It is likely that because our political and conventional energy “leaders” have dragged their feet for so long on major and dramatic efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that we should be looking at sequestration – but only as a back-up last ditch effort when all else has failed.

    I hope others are also enraged by the lack of political leadership and grotesque lack of regard re climat change that most energy business leaders are displaying. We must engage as many people as possible in rousing public interest in this issue so our politicians make no mistake in knowing where the votes are.

    With votes behind them, politicians can make a sustainable future start now, and we can put the era of fossil fuels behind us in fifty years, instead of having several hundred billion tonnes of CO2 pumped into the ground in a continuing display of unsustainable fossil fuel production.

    write your MP and MPPs.


  4. Tyler, you inadvertantly wrote what must be the two most ironic sentences I’ve read in a long time:

    .…the province would aim to reduce its CO2 emissions to 14% below 2005 levels by 2050 and that 70% of those emission cuts would come from CCS. There’s a lot of hope built into those numbers.

    You'[re completely right, of course, but….hope built into a figure of 14% by 2050?! Th UK is going 60%–maybe 80%–by 2050. EU much the same.

    This is precisely the sort of uninspired, lack of leadership, can’t-do attitude that you can expect from entrenched business interests with a long history of getting in bed with governments.

    I don’t really care if it’s the government or private sector that leads us to a low-carbon future. Both have shown us in the past that they can do a lot for progress. But not these govenrments, or these businesses. We need change. We need real hope. Because we can do this, if we wanted. We just need a leader who can see that.

  5. Tyler, interesting criticism of CCS. I definitely agree that we should be imposing a significant revenue-neutral carbon tax instead of subdizing these technologies, and the Pembina Institute is right that if we are going to subsidize them, we should then own the infrastructure. On the other hand, I’ve Marc Jaccard’s books (you’re advertising Sustainable Fossil Fuels, for example) and he makes a convincing argument for CCS. What is your take on his points?

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