Wanna bet the farm on carbon capture and sequestration?

April 16, 2007

Repeat after me: see qua stray shun.


As words go, sequestration is one of your uglier words. It sounds like something bad, like defenestration. Or something left over from the Inquisition.

But if you want to go on living on the planet Earth, then you’d better learn how to love sequestration. Because if sequestration doesn’t work, the planet is toast. Literally.

I went to a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today that was intended “to receive testimony on S.731, National Carbon Dioxide Storage Capacity Assessment Act of 2007 and S.962, Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Storage Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 2007.”

The less opaque version of this Congress-speak would be: a hearing on carbon capture (capturing the CO2 from burning fossil fuels, especially coal in electricity generating plants) and the subsequent sequestration (storage) of that captured carbon so that the CO2 could not reach the atmosphere and worsen global warming.

According to its proponents, with sequestration, we can burn our carbon and cool the planet too, by just slipping that nasty old CO2 underground somewhere it won’t leak out for a not-well-defined period of time much, much longer than Europeans have lived in North America. Not quite a free lunch, but damn close (since we will have to pay something for the energy costs of the sequestration process itself).

While you’re sitting at home, your elected representatives are getting ready to bet the farm, i.e. the future of the world, that humans are going to figure out how to make sequestration work fast enough, at large enough scale, to allow for a coal-burning orgy like nothing in human history. Because the U.S. and China and India and others have got plenty of coal–or so they say–, so we’re going to burn it, come hell or rising sea levels.

Full version at Global Public Media.

Tags: Coal, Energy Policy, Fossil Fuels