A pipe dream

Carbon storage promises to be massively expensive, inefficient and will consume more, not less, energy

The Wall Street Journal‘s Keith Johnson, writing on the newspaper’s Environmental Capital blog, takes a brief, devastating look at carbon capture and storage, touted by the International Energy Agency as a method of cutting “the global bill for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 per cent.” That’s the good news, says Johnson. The bad? “Whatever changes are made to the regulatory and fiscal environment, they won’t change physics—carbon capture will still be inefficient and require more, not less, energy consumption.” The IEA’s just-released “roadmap” to putting carbon capture and storage into play internationally “throws trillion-dollar figures around with such abandon, it’s hard to measure the true cost.” Consider just one of the technology’s challenges: moving the carbon from source to underground destination. “The IEA figures 360,000 kilometers of pipeline should do the trick,” writes Johnson. “That’s nine trips around the earth. Somebody better lock up steel futures, if that’s the case.” The plan is also premised on getting 85 projects up and running every year until around 2050. Johnson doesn’t mention it, but Alberta’s Energy Minister Mel Knight is attending the CCS summit in London, along with federal Minister Lisa Raitt. Indeed, Canada (and Alberta and Saskatchewan specifically) is ground zero for the new technology, whatever its true costs. Just today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach together announced the construction of one of the world’s first fully-integrated carbon capture and storage projects at a coal-fired power plant outside Edmonton. The two governments have committed $779 million over the next 15 years to the project–just a drop in the global bucket.

Wall Street Journal

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