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Is carbon capture the solution?

Is carbon capture and sequestration, as some lawmakers are proposing for inclusion in a climate bill, a magic bullet to curb emissions or is the technology a bunch of hype?

Posted by Washington Post Editor on March 24, 2010 7:11 AM

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (21)

KJR1 Author Profile Page :

Another finite solution. This is short-term thinking that only delays the inevitable. Suitable sequestering sites aren't everywhere. What's the cost, fiscaly AND environmentaly, to building the infastructure to get ALL the CO2 to these sites. CCS may have merits as a VERY shor-term stop-gap measure, but you may as well leave if that's the only thing you can bring to the table.

jkoch2 Author Profile Page :

To inject any gas into the ground would seem to require very high pressure. The process would itself use energy and generate CO2. Very likely, the CO2 would simply burp, ooze, or flatulate back into the atmosphere a few miles away, or else push out equivalent amoungs of methane, radon, or other gas in the ground.

However, "feasibility" research looks like a great way to grant funding to a well-connected constituent or win favorable PR, just so long as the gas is not being pumped under McMansion subdivisions. The Cello cellulose biofuel fraud was a good lesson on how to make money without having to provide something that can earn a profit or even break-even. True believers will continue to subsidize such programs, just like controled hydrogen fusion research, on the idea that success is only (but never less than) 50 years away.

If underground disposal of waste is feasible, depleted uranium is probably the best case, since it can go into deep mines, remote from faults or acquifers, and stay there eons.

Wallenstein Author Profile Page :

Sorry, people are still talking about carbon capture? It's the most childish solution ever conceived. Yes, just pump the CO2 into the ground? Why not put the carbon dioxide on rockets and shoot it into space? Or invent a way for it to be transformed into sugar? These and other topics currently being debated in 3rd grade classes everywhere.

It would be hype if it were't an utter fantasy. I'd lay better odds on Santa Clause solving the problem than carbon capture and sequestration going anywhere. You cannot change the laws of physics.

truthhurts Author Profile Page :

Am told it takes 50 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple sugar. Up in the New England and New York states lots of wood is utilized for calories expended to boil water out of sap. Now, reverse osmosis technology can eliminate at least 50% of that water in maple sap without any caloric loss. Problem is machine costs big bux but co-opts could overcome that capital investment if the logging industry does not lobby against progress.

I think capturing or eliminating carbon starts right at the exhaust pipe, but that's just me. I would like to have an all natural gas powered farm including a natural gas vehicle and tractor to use our local and available natural resources right here below my feet.

But arrogance and ignorance displayed by the ungrateful Elitists just can't think past their own selfish money-eyed interests. I told a person that I had gas right under my computer here at home. You know what I was asked, "Did you fart ?", pathetic.

cmckeonjr Author Profile Page :

I wonder whether someone qualified in the science has speculated on a closed carbon cycle--the capture of C02 and it reuse through some kind of photosynthesis, like nature does, perhaps through some kind of genetic manipulation to maximize production of reduced organic molecules and oxygen.

walkerbert Author Profile Page :

I think the CO2 thing is partly a crock, but there's an up-side, here, carbon dioxide can be frozen, and the next time someone harps about rising ocean temperatures, they can cart some dry ice out there on a barge, hit the release handle, and put that problem 'on the rocks'. That would be a pretty 'cool' solution to the problem of what to do with your thusly sequestered carbon, as well as directly addressing the problem of rising ocean temperatures.

irvinmj Author Profile Page :

Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration is enormously expensive, and no one can predict the consequences if it doesn't stay sequestered forever. A better solution is Carbon Capture and Recycle(TM). From research begun at the University of Idaho and Washington State University, a high-tech startup in little ol' Moscow, Idaho, has devised a way to use unique silicon-based nanomaterial coated with photocatalyst TiO2 to convert CO2 into useful industrial chemicals methanol, methane, formic acid and formaldehyde. Check out for an executive overview. There's only a little stock left in the seed money pool, but I think it will make a few visionary investors (including me) a fortune within a few years. Call 208-669-0498 and I'll tell you more.

nosam32 Author Profile Page :

The earth will, in fact, wither, fade, and die...just like you and me. Get over it; grow up(ward)!

The irony is that it is the materialistic thinkers who propose this misunderstanding who are contributing to the very thing they cannot apprehend!

pearba Author Profile Page :

You can't fight thermodynamics. You got the energy out by turning the carbon into its lowest energy form - CO2. Anything you try to do with it from there is back up the energy hill, and thus will 1)expensive 2)hard to do.

Don't hold your breath on this one.

fishwish Author Profile Page :

KRODOLFO--You make a good case that CS won't work for coal, but how about natural gas and methane? Do you think it works in a situation where you have an oil field near a natural gas generator that you can inject the CO2 into?

37thand0street Author Profile Page :

An over-hyped solution to an over-hyped problem?

Who could have guessed ???


12thgenamerican Author Profile Page :

carbon is a hoax. bye bye dems in 2010/2012.

chatard Author Profile Page :

The United States of America is in the midst of a dvastating Recession and heading into a Depression. The financial system of the United States is on the verge of collapse. And the Washington Post sees fit to engage in the hobby of discussing carbon. What a great service to humanity and the human condition.

krodolfo Author Profile Page :

Simple “molar” chemistry presents a rigid, inescapable chemical fact that remarkably few people know about: burning any single weight (gram, pound, kilo, ton) of carbon from coal makes 3.67 equivalent weights (grams, pounds, kilos, tonnes) of CO2.

Every carbon atom weighs 12 “atomic mass units” or “amu”; every oxygen atom weighs 16 amu. When a carbon atom is burned, it combines with two oxygen atoms to form a molecule of CO2 weighing 44 amu.

By the same token, burning any 12 weights of carbon will make 44 of the same weights of CO2. For example, burning 12 kilos of coal carbon would make 44 kilos of CO2.

Carbon capture and storage says that for every weight of coal carbon we mine out of the ground, we would stuff back into the ground almost four times that weight of CO2. Is this not absurd?

The smallest volume that CO2 would occupy in storage would be if frozen and compressed into “dry ice”. Twelve kilos of the purest bituminous coal with a specific gravity of 1.35 would make 8,900 cubic centimeters. The 44 kilos of CO2 formed by burning it, if frozen into “dry ice” with a specific gravity of 1.56, would have a volume of 28,200 cubic centimeters, more than three times greater.

rblack2 Author Profile Page :

The most valid solution to carbon capture is to turn plants into charcoal and put that charcoal into the soil.Its called Terra Preta and is the only solution that increases food production while taking carbon out of the atmosphere.Four years ago I put 250 pounds of carbon (charcoal), into my garden and it is still there and my garden is productive and prolific using 15 percent less water and no fertilization. Don't believe me, research the subject, look at the information and make your own decision.
Randy Black
Fort Collins, Colorado

AGWsceptic99 Author Profile Page :

Like most of the articles published here by the AGW/GHG advocates at the Post, you present a ridiculous dilemma that misrepresents the position of the skeptics and then proceed to win your argument.

The question is not whether the climate has warmed in recent years, as it is obvious from many measurements that it has. This is especially obvious in the northern hemisphere as spring melt, planting times, harvesting times, and fall freeze times have changed.

The questions are why these observable facts have occurred and what should be the human response to these changes.

Carbon sequestration is clearly an unproven technology that may not even accomplish its announced goals of reducing emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. There are substantial risks to the ecology above and below ground wherever it would be used and using this technology will be very expensive.

Unanswered and not even addressed is the fundamental question of whether human activity is causing or even influencing the current climate changes. If it were established that current climate changes are unusual in recent geological times, which it has not been, then one would have more reason to ask why.

The 'scientists' who claim that today's temperatures are warmer than ever are using historical climate reconstructions that cannot be reproduced by independent scientists for a number of reasons. The 'scientists' refuse to release their sources and methods. Detailed examination of individual weather stations regularly reveals that the NASA/CRU data has been measured sloppily and adjusted using faulty methodology; any resulting analysis has best been described using the term 'garbage in produces garbage out.

CCS is a wonderful money machine for those involved in producing the technology and installing and operating it. There is substantial risk to the ecology above and below ground wherever it is employed, and the likelihood that the carbon so captured will return to the atmosphere is unknown but probably high.

As the question was posed, the answer is that CCS is hype. It is an unproven technology that will cost consumers of electricity a fortune and may not even accomplish the stated goals. The goal of reducing emission of CO2 into the atmosphere is itself of questionable value as there is no real proof that doing so creates a meaningful problem.

billyo1 Author Profile Page :

Its time to spend some real energy getting this country back to work instead of wasting money and brain power on carbon anything. Take a stroll through the Natural History Museum on the Mall and you'll see all the proof on display that the planet has and will warm and cool on its own. To think that we have a measurable impact is about as arrogant and foolish as you can get.

demcapu Author Profile Page :

Sequestering CO2 is like double diapering a baby instead of cleaning the baby's bottom. Recall the effects of sudden release of gases trapped in bottom of lakes in Africa with thousands of death. When the diaper burst the ca-ca hits the fan.

Sequestering CO2 anywhere including biomass (trees, weeds, algae, mines) is like paying with credit card instead of cash. Delaying payments by 30 days with usurry interest charges is the essense of CO2 sequestering. It is like a person, to continue the doodoo analogy, holding it in until Mother Nature takes over. Deniers to the contrary, we are in deep shat.

The CO2 controversy is like the blindmen encountering an elephant. The trunk man says an elephant is like a snake. The leg man says, No, it is like a tree. The sideman says an elephant is like a wall. The fourth man grabs the tail and is drenched in a deluge of deep doodoo, expressing with epithets and expletives, "No, we've been here before. An elephant is a Republican!"

pkhenry Author Profile Page :

What a complete waste of time. There are real problems we need to be concerned with. Tiny changes in CO2 make no difference in our lives.

g55rumpy Author Profile Page :


AppDev Author Profile Page :

Little question now remains that carbon dioxide capture and storage work, but just as with renewable energy sources, the real questions remain scope and cost. The volumes of compressed gas to be stored are much larger than volumes of coal that were burned. There will not be large enough underground reservoirs to hold the amounts of carbon dioxide being released today. The cost estimates for the FutureGen project suggest that wholesale electricity rates could more than double. So it would be unwise to count on capture as more than one part of a program to reduce emissions. There will surely have to be a portfolio of other efforts, including renewables and conservation.

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