Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carbon-capture technology faces major obstacles

The next time you hear someone confidently predict that sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants will ensure the future of the coal industry amd limit climate change, you might suggest they read a story in today's Washington Post by Steven Mufson. We can't recall an article that better explains the huge obstacles that must be overcome in a relatively short time, and it includes some handy facts and illustrations, such as this one: "The United States produces enough carbon dioxide to cover the nation's entire land mass with a layer one foot deep every year."

Mufson pegs his story to a pilot project, which could start as early as next month, at a coal-burning plant on the Ohio River near New Haven, W.Va. (Post map). The plant is owned by American Electric Power Co., which buys more coal than any other customer in the U.S. Its CEO, Michael Morris, told Mufson, "Clearly carbon capture and storage is essential for a company like AEP, and I would argue equally essential for the United States, because you can't go through the process of prematurely shutting down half the supply base of the American utility industry."

Advocates of the process argue or hope that it "will get better and cheaper over time," Mufson writes. "It is central to selling climate policies to consumers, because it permits policymakers to assert that costs will be tamed and energy prices will get only modestly higher." He quotes U.S. Sen John Kerry, D-Mass.: "I'm prepared to bet on American ingenuity." (Read more)

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