Carbon capture and storage: Bury the myth and focus on alternatives

That was the title of a recently published paper I wrote (with the help of Luke Temple, who edited it) about a tantalizing idea: let’s take all our nasty excess carbon dioxide, and pump it underground. Much like sweeping the mess under the bed, the report found that CCS only seems like a good plan in the land of short-term wishful thinking.

 
If you want to know more, check out the IPPR website, where the research is published alongside 7 other politically relevant energy essays. Alternatively, see below for my very brief summary of why CCS “is not wise”, to paraphrase an interview by Vaclav Smil.

Some technological complexities that must be overcome for CCS to work.

In terms of a long-term strategy,  politicians are making a mistake by investing in CCS. This is because in the long-run we’ll need to run our economies on renewable energy flows; in the short run CCS simply does not work on the scales required. Further issues include the costliness, riskiness and dodgy legal implications of CCS. In addition, it helps the fossil fuel industry justify its continued extraction of stored sunlight which we can no longer afford to burn.

Instead of dwelling on these negative issues, the report swiftly moves onto the opportunity posed by focus elsewhere. In fact, saving energy is relatively easy and makes economic sense.

To summarize: CCS is expensive, risky and may even lead to higher emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Alternatives, based on an “energy hierarchy” are much better placed to solve our long-term energy/climate issues.

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