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Ben Lieberman

Ben Lieberman

Ben Lieberman, a specialist in energy and environmental issues, is a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation's Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. ALL POSTS

CCS: More trouble than it's worth

Q: Is carbon capture and sequestration a magic bullet to curb emissions or is the technology a bunch of hype?

With global warming looking more and more like an over-hyped threat, we need to be extra careful about solutions to it that are more trouble than they are worth. So it is with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

From the energy penalty extracted from the power plant to the costs of collecting and moving vast amounts of carbon and injecting it underground for permanent storage, CCS is an expensive undertaking -- with ratepayers picking up the tab. And before we can start worrying about operating costs, we first need to build out the CCS infrastructure. The necessary pipeline system alone would rival this nation's existing oil and gas pipeline network -- which took decades and untold billions to create - and would have to be built from scratch. Whether CCS will ever be economically and technologically viable (and if so when) is still an open question - it may be that any global warming measure that explicitly or implicitly requires coal-fired generation to use CCS is tantamount to an eventual ban on coal.

CCS would be costly enough even if it enjoyed environmental activist support, but it is more likely to garner opposition. The same green organizations who find no inconsistency in suing to block wind and solar projects are likely to do the same with CCS. Many have all but announced such plans - their goal is to kill coal, not to help keep it viable in a carbon constrained world. In addition, the liability concerns - for example, hundreds of thousands of property owners will have pressurized carbon dioxide underneath their land -- are both legitimate and daunting.

Every way you look at it, ratcheting down emissions of carbon dioxide (either by preventing the use of fossil fuels in the first place by making them prohibitively expensive, or injecting the carbon dioxide emissions underground) is extremely costly, and all to make a relatively minor dent in what is turning out to be the greatest non-crisis facing mankind.

By Ben Lieberman  |  March 26, 2010; 5:28 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: A potential gap closer | Next: The promise of CO2 capture and storage


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Denial is not an effective strategy and forces a very expensive reactive, rather than a less expensive pro-active, response. True, an earlier, pro-active response is at least partially funded by the industry creating the probe; perhaps that is what Republicans despise. They would have the the guise of first diminished personal health and the ensuing medical costs before finally the federal government stepping in after years of research (all the while Republicans disputing scientific and medical evidence as a ruse to avoid responsibility).

I firmly believe that every person and business should be held accountable for any and everything they do that affects another person, animal or the environment. Claiming ignorance, or even worse, a cost/benefit analysis that is based upon "acceptable losses in the name of profit" is greedy and reprehensible. Thorough, safe testing should be done ~before~ bringingn anything to the market.

Profits, in and of themselves, do not justify reckless behavior.

Posted by: chklbrry | March 29, 2010 1:47 PM
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I aggree with Mr. Lieberman. Global Warming and Climate Change as it has been proposed by progressive liberals is an overhyped myth. In millions of years there trumped up data only covers less than 100 years, and that data does not show any correlation to man made global warming. For them its solely about liberal agenda, and they have sucked in some support from fools who actually think any of this is beneficial to the environment. Its all about the benefits to the liberal agenda, and their own pocketbooks.

Global Warming is a complete myth.

Posted by: ignoranceisbliss | March 29, 2010 12:45 PM
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Mr. Lieberman,
Not all "costs" are monetary. Why do conservatives have so little faith in the predictive powers of science?
The time to deal with a crisis is not when it is already upon you.
Would you wait for raw sewage to come out of your faucet before calling for clean water regulations? Would you wait to be bitten by a rabid dog before accepting animal control regulations?
Science has advanced to where it can reasonably predict the rate and vector of the spread of communicable diseases, the occurrence of volcanic eruptions, etc. Why do you exhibit so little faith in humanity?

Posted by: trblmkr1 | March 29, 2010 11:27 AM
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How will co2 sequestration be monitored? What prevents fraud when being paid carbon credits for co2? What prevents false claims of more co2 sequestration than actually happens? How are leaks through faultlines detected? How will we know for sure all the co2 sent down the hole is still down there?

Posted by: fabco | March 29, 2010 11:19 AM
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I agree there is a lot potential for leakage at underground faultlines, and probably won't sequester as much co2 as we think.

How about using a newer technology reactor design that can recycle wastes and just replace coal for baseload?

Posted by: fabco | March 28, 2010 6:51 PM
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An ordinary magician can make a rabbit disappear a master magician can disappear an elephant, but no magician, no matter how well paid by Heritage, can make facts disappear. Facts: We burn enormous amounts of oil, coal and natural gas, and this produces carbon dioxide; carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are easily measurable, and are rising to levels never before seen; carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to increases in global temperatures.

Posted by: spencer1 | March 28, 2010 3:18 PM
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Mr. Lieberman,

So it's "the greatest non-crisis facing mankind?" Like Techtonic said, what will it take for you to violate the Heritage Foundation theology? Obviously it ain't facts, scientific consensus or melting permafrost.
But (alas) I agree with you on CO2 sequestration as being dangerous and impractical, with likely unintended consequences out the wazoo.

Posted by: duffworx | March 27, 2010 1:01 PM
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Hi Ben,
I wonder how you would rate the "non-crisis" that just eliminated a heavily contested island between Bangladesh and India? At what point does the hard physical evidence - seas rising, land disappearing, ice sheets melting - outweigh ideology?

If you have another explanation outside global warming to explain the sea level rise, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: tektonic222 | March 27, 2010 11:34 AM
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