The future of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is not set in stone, energy industry experts say.
Many CCS advocates think that, in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the technology is the only way to keep global temperatures from rising above 2° C. They say nuclear power and renewables alone will not be able to reduce emissions to the levels needed to stay below a 2° C increase in temperature.
Jeff Erikson, general manager for the Americas region of the Global CCS Institute, said at a Nov. 15 symposium in Washington, D.C., that “while CCS is essential, it is not inevitable.” Of the $2.5 trillion that has been invested globally in clean-energy technology over the past 10 years, the U.S. spent about $1 trillion for solar and wind but only about $20 billion on CCS technologies. However, with Energy Information Agency projections estimating that fossil fuels will account for 75% of energy supply in 2040, “carbon capture is a pragmatic approach to [something] we are going to have to deal with for some time,” Erikson said.
Armond Cohen, co-founder and executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, noted that, even with a small percentage of the total spent on clean-energy technologies, “we are seeing enormous progress [with CCS]. We are seeing successive projects come down in price.”
Adele Morris, director of the Brookings Institute’s Climate and Energy Economics project, said economic modeling showed that “achieving 2° C is really hard. For a long time, the models couldn’t achieve” it. In order to be able to get the models to work, they had to add CCS, plus negative emissions technology.
Policymakers will need to act quickly to get emissions to net zero by implementing tax credits for CCS technologies or other innovative approaches, Morris added.
Along those lines, there is some bipartisan interest in Congress in a bill that would provide tax credits for CCS. It is unclear whether there is enough support to add the legislation to an end-of-year tax or spending package.