Anyone who thinks it would be cheap and easy to bury the carbon dioxide pollution arising from coal-fired power plants would benefit from reading a passage from Daniel Yergin’s The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World about the scale of that undertaking:
And the scale here would be very, very large. It would really be like creating a parallel universe, a new energy industry, but one that works in reverse. Instead of extracting resources from the ground, transporting, and transforming them, and then burning them, the “Big Carbon” industry would nab the spent resource of CO2 before it gets into the atmosphere, and transform and transport it, and eventually put it back into the ground. This would truly be a round-trip.
Indeed, this new CCS industry would be similar in scale to that of existing energy industries. If just 60 percent of the CO2 produced by today’s coal-fired power plants in the United States were captured and compressed into a liquid, transported, and injected into the storage site, the daily volume of liquids so handled would be about equal to the 19 million barrels of oil that the United States consumes every day. It is sobering to realize that 150 years and trillions of dollars were required to build that existing system for oil. (p. 402, hardcover)
Personally, I wonder whether it is really worth going through such a song and dance in order to keep coal viable as a source of energy. After all, it would still be producing large volumes of toxic air and water pollution, it would still require the destruction of mountains to dig up the raw matter to burn, and it would still ultimately be an exhaustible resource.
- Carbon capture and storage
- The geological plausibility of CCS
- A responsible position on carbon capture
- Carbon capture cannot redeem the oil sands
- Clean coal isn’t cheap