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Lars G. Josefsson
CEO, Vattenfall

Lars G. Josefsson

Lars G. Josefsson is president and CEO of Vattenfall, Europe's fifth largest generator of electricity and the largest generator of heat with operations in Denmark, Finland, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, Netherlands and Sweden. He is also a member of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. ALL POSTS

We need to talk sensibly about CCS and climate change

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?

My company, Vattenfall, has invested around 300 million dollars in the development of carbon capture and storage. We are arguably the world leader in the development of the technology as it will be used in the power industry -- and we'll have a large scale (385MW) demonstration in operation in Germany by 2015. We emit almost 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels each year, and yet our business strategy is built around the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. Carbon capture and storage will play a big part in the success of that strategy.

So you could say that we have more riding on CCS than any company in the world. And yet even I would never call CCS a 'magic bullet'. It is one option among many. It could be particularly important in countries that use a lot of coal (the U.S., Germany, China, India) if it takes more time for them to scale up other energy sources. And it could be crucial for industries like cement and steel, where there are few other options for drastically reducing emissions. But it is just one part of the solution. CCS cannot stop climate change by itself - we will need renewables where they are available, nuclear where it is acceptable, and improved efficiency everywhere it is possible. I don't think anyone who understands the challenge of climate change is saying that CCS is the only answer.

The question about 'hype' is also off the mark. The technology is very real -- separation, capture, and sequestration of carbon dioxide has been going on in various applications for years. We know it works. The technology challenge ahead of us is actually a very 'boring' one: integrating infrastructure, getting more efficient and cost-effective. For those of us working with the technology, this does not feel like 'hype.'

Success will be a joint effort -- between governments, local communities, and companies. Despite our investments we cannot build CCS alone: the transportation and storage of the carbon dioxide will require infrastructure that needs societal acceptance and government regulation. That is why we need to have a serious public conversation, and stop talking of 'magic bullets' and technology hype. Oversimplifying and sensationalizing the issues will not make it easier to tackle climate change -- it will only make things more difficult. The public, and the planet, deserve a more sensible discussion.

By Lars G. Josefsson  |  March 24, 2010; 10:42 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The importance of offsets | Next: CCS: Neither bullet nor hype

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Jkoch -- as I'm not neutral to the discussion (I know and work with Vattenfall), I won't debate CCS with you, but you should know that Lars has done more than just about anyone to put 'numbers' on the cost of CCS. One thorough third party study Vattenfall helped pay for is here:

http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/ccs_assessing_the_economics.pdf

Posted by: jblackest | April 1, 2010 4:04 AM
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The biggest problems are in the mega-city heat islands with too many people, too much concrete and too few plants. The cost of restructuring the cities should be born by the cities not by the nation as a whole. This is a state problem not a federal problem.

Any carbon sequestered by whatever means should be converted to a clean fuel that can be burned not buried.

Posted by: Independent109 | March 29, 2010 7:54 PM
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No one questions that CO2 sequestration works. Corn gasohol also "works," at least for a few farmers, distillers, and grain companies, provided there is a big subsidy and tariff. The question is: at what price? What if the process requires nearly as much CO2 as it sequesters, doubles the cost of coal or gas electricity, or the presurized injections simply cause the earth to exude other gases? Jofsesson provides no such numbers because: 1) he hasn't any; and 2) he presumes government money will buoy his ventures, no matter what the costs; and 3) 2050 is a long way off, business-wise, so why worry about targets?

Posted by: jkoch2 | March 29, 2010 1:16 PM
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If an oil or coal company executive were talking frankly about the options regarding carbon fuels, no matter what he or she might actually say, those words would be uniformly rejected by every "environmentalist" because the speaker is paid by the fossil fuels industry.

Mr. Josefsson's company is heavily invested in carbon capture, and stands to profit from the expansion of same. Should his words be unilaterally rejected as those of a profiteer?

Posted by: LNER4472 | March 28, 2010 8:37 PM
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I hope Carbon Capture & Sequestration works. I would like to see it as an adjunct to efforts to improve our air quality. We may take longer than we think to transition to cleaner, greener technologies. In the period between, we should try and sequester as much CO2 as possible, so we can see some improvement in the quality of our air and water. We have to have some low hanging fruit here, to embolden us to move forward. I don't think 99% of most Americans have a clue how expensive these transitional movements are going to be.
Obama is right, though, to believe that every job possible, n the stimulus, be a green one. Every green job will be a job theoretically built to last for decades. The transition process to a cleaner, greener world, will be enormous, and costly. There's no way we can do it over night. Carbon Capture promises some solutions to the problem. We should go for it.

Posted by: zennheadd | March 28, 2010 7:30 PM
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Quote:

"Success will be a joint effort -- between governments, local communities, and companies. Despite our investments we cannot build CCS alone: the transportation and storage of the carbon dioxide will require infrastructure that needs societal acceptance and government regulation. That is why we need to have a serious public conversation, and stop talking of 'magic bullets' and technology hype. Oversimplifying and sensationalizing the issues will not make it easier to tackle climate change -- it will only make things more difficult. The public, and the planet, deserve a more sensible discussion."

In plain language, you cannot do it yourself because the governments and people involved must agree to pay really a lot more money for electricity and also must agree to accept the very real risks that injecting huge amounts of CO2 gas into the ground will cause serious damage to the environment and pose serious risks of damage to those unfortunate enough to live above these pressure chambers.

Damage to underground water supplies is another real risk, but maybe some people would enjoy having their drinking water taste like Club Soda mixed with oil.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | March 27, 2010 9:04 AM
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