David Mohler, who leads the Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management, declared yesterday that prospects for carbon capture technology are strong.
Still reeling from the presidential election results last week, Mohler yesterday told a panel in Washington, D.C., that the technologies for capturing carbon dioxide emissions and locking them away have built up significant momentum that will continue, even in a Trump administration that places a low priority on tackling climate change.
“In just the recent past, we have made incredible progress in CCS [carbon capture and storage],” Mohler said. “If you look at the major demonstration projects that were either completed or just coming to completion, we have proven the technologies work, we have demonstrated that they can be scaled, and what we’ve also demonstrated is that we need to continue to work on cost and the value equation.
“I think those fit very well into what the incoming administration has articulated in some of its key agendas,” he said, adding, “The future of carbon capture will be sustained.”
CCS systems keep carbon dioxide from energy and industrial sources from reaching the atmosphere. The gas can be stored in underground reservoirs or put to work in extracting oil or as a raw material.
For coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, CCS offers a means to comply with greenhouse gas regulations, keeping fossil fuels in play in a carbon-constrained world. But with an incoming president who has pledged to cancel international climate change commitments like the Paris Agreement, there may be less support from the highest levels of government for these technologies, hampering progress in the climate fight.
The Global CCS Institute, an industry policy and lobbying group, issued a report yesterday finding that the amount of carbon dioxide captured around the world needs to increase a hundredfold by 2040 in order to hit global climate change targets (Greenwire, Nov. 15).
“The report was written prior to the U.S. election, and with the assumption that the Paris Agreement will be a driving force in pushing down greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jeff Erikson, general manager for the Americas at the Global CCS Institute.
‘Now their guy is in the White House’
However, there are other important motivators for carbon emitters to invest in CCS, from limiting their own risks from climate change to creating new markets for CCS technology.
“Leading corporations have long recognized that limiting climate change is a business imperative,” Erikson said. “The science and the math of global warming have not changed since last Tuesday.”
Politically, CCS offers an avenue for regions struggling under low fuel prices to stay in the game and may help President-elect Trump make good on his pledge to bring jobs to coal-mining communities. But Bob Inglis, a Republican who represented South Carolina in Congress and lost his seat after acknowledging climate change as an important issue, noted that natural gas prices are undermining coal in the United States, not climate regulations.
“The headline could be ‘CCS offers hope for coal.’ Well, it does, but it offers the exact same hope for natural gas,” Inglis said. “You can’t repeal the price of natural gas.”
He added that echoes of the Paris Agreement would still haunt energy policy in the United States, even if the next president decided to withdraw from the global climate accord, since the constituencies that elected Trump may start looking at climate change differently.
“Up until now, they felt pinned against the wall by a liberal elite that tells them that their lifestyle is wrong,” Inglis said. “Now their guy is in the White House. ... Now maybe you can say, ‘Let’s talk about climate change.’”
Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, echoed this, adding that some of the Obama administration’s climate regulations will still be on the table in January until they are officially repealed. “The Clean Power Plan is not dead. It is the law,” he said. “This notion that all the pressure is off of the fossil fuel industry is wishful thinking.”
Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news atwww.eenews.net.