Is Carbon Capture a Pipe Dream?

The stimulus bill included over $2 billion for the development of carbon capture technologies.  The just-introduced Kerry-Lieberman climate bill would authorize $2 billion more.  Will anything result from these investments?  I would hope so, but Robert Bryce argues carbon capture has substantial — perhaps insuperable — economic obstacles to overcome. He writes:

That’s a lot of money for a technology whose adoption faces three potentially insurmountable hurdles: it greatly reduces the output of power plants; pipeline capacity to move the newly captured carbon dioxide is woefully insufficient; and the volume of waste material is staggering. Lawmakers should stop perpetuating the hope that the technology can help make huge cuts in the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.

He makes a compelling case that drawing carbon out of power plant emissions and then sequestering it will be very costly no matter what.  This is one reason why some hope for technologies that could remove carbon dioxide from the ambient air, potentially reducing the need to pipe carbon dioxide great distances.  In any event, Bryce’s column underscores the reality that there are as yet no cheap and easy ways to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to any significant degree.

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