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Carbon capture and storage: time to bury the myth?

By Robin Lovelace and Luke Temple

In theory, carbon capture and storage (CCS) mitigates the effects of climate change by pumping carbon dioxide underground. It proposes to reduce emissions without curbing the use of fossil fuels and, as a result, has been advocated by energy corporations, governments and international institutions.

Much academic research also favours the idea. Criticism is often isolated and purely technical. However, surveys indicate that the public is either ambivalent towards CCS or has reservations about its use.

The public is right to be cautious: CCS is expensive, high risk, and may actually increase emissions due to greater demand for coal. These technical drawbacks alone suggest that the government’s commitment to CCS does not add up. Cheaper and more reliable options exist, yet these rarely enter the debate.

To overcome this, the concept of an ‘energy hierarchy’ can be used to highlight the full range of options for meeting climate change and energy security commitments. Criticism of CCS can therefore be seen as an opportunity, to re-evaluate energy policy priorities and focus on the proven and economically prudent measures of energy conservation and efficiency.

Carbon capture and storage is not, as its name suggests, a single technology. It can be defined as the separation, transportation, and sequestration of CO2 arising from burning fossil fuels. CCS is complex and requires expensive technologies, many of which come from the oil industry.

In political debate the idea is grossly oversimplified. When he was UK secretary of state for energy and climate change, Chris Huhne frequently referred to CCS as a ‘key technology’ that was ‘essential’, yet showed little understanding of the many technologies involved.[1] This simplistic view seems to be shared: in the Hansard records 53 MPs have mentioned ‘CCS technology’ during recorded parliamentary debates yet only one, from Scotland, has referred to the underlying science.[2]

If the technical risks are not understood, an overly optimistic assessment of CCS may be the result (Hansson 2009). Lack of scientific knowledge about CCS, such as the impacts on plant efficiency and thereby rates of coal depletion, hinders informed debate on the subject. These things matter because they can result in the promotion of a technology that may not live up to its promise.

The public appears to be less optimistic than politicians: opinion polls indicate that attitudes toward CCS are largely ambivalent or mildly opposed.[3] Overall CCS has a low public profile.[4] This, together with the lack of scientific understanding amongst politicians, makes it timely to present the case against CCS in a straightforward and succinct way.

The case against CCS

In a nutshell, CCS is expensive, risky, and may not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Even assuming minimal CO2 leakage, the wider impacts include risk-laden and energy-intensive infrastructure and increased methane emissions. These issues are rarely stated in political debate.

These arguments are not widespread because existing criticisms of CCS often focus solely on one technological problem or legal difficulty. Few have confronted the idea directly and comprehensively[5] whilst providing viable alternatives. The condensed argument presented above combines five specific shortfalls: cost, risk, efficiency, viability and legality.

First, the economics of CCS do not add up. Estimated marginal abatement costs of hypothetical projects vary from $31 to £300 per tonne of CO2(tCO2).[6] Few economic evaluations of actual CCS projects have been conducted. However, one study of a gas-fired power plant in Norway suggests costs greater than $300 per tCO2: ‘about 20 times the international carbon emission allowance price and many times higher than alternative domestic climate measures’ (Osmundsen and Emhjellen 2010).

The costs increase for retrofitted CCS plants (McKinsey 2007), which would dominate the UK market (DECC 2010). Aside from high capital and operation costs, the reliance of CCS plants on carbon credits may create incentives for the ‘venting’ of CO2 if the price of carbon drops (Haszeldine 2009).

Second, CCS is a high-risk option. The technology has yet to be tested on the industrial scales required to make a dent in the UK’s annual emissions. ‘Slippage’, where progress is hampered by continual setbacks, has been identified as a problem by the Committee on Climate Change. CCS may have limited capacity to help decarbonisation through the 2020s even assuming major projects such as Longannet had succeeded (CCC 2010). CCS plants take many years to construct even without the teething problems experienced by test plants (Russell and Markusson 2012).

Third, emission savings from CCS plants may be less than expected due to lifecycle impacts. These include carbon embodied in the manufacture of compressors, chemicals required to capture the CO2, and the reinforced steel pipelines needed to transport the CO2 to suitable geological structures (IPCC 2005). Efficiency losses affect CCS plants (IEA et al 2010), resulting in coal-fired power plants requiring 24–40 per cent more fuel for the same amount of final energy output (IPCC 2005: table 8.3a). Because coal mining is associated with emissions of methane, this could lead to an increase in the total emissions of a potent greenhouse gas. This is also undesirable for energy security.[7]

Fourth, even assuming suitable geological formations exist nearby, ready to accept thousands of tonnes of compressed CO2 each day, each of these issues above is severe. However, recent research casts doubt on the idea that geological formations are available to safely retain CO2 on the scale required (Ehlig-Economides and Economides 2010, Shukla et al 2010).

Finally, further impediments are related to the legal status of CO2 deposits, insurance responsibilities, and the availability of low-cost fuel imports needed to power CCS-fitted power plants.

These considerations demonstrate that funding CCS is ill-advised. However, how facts are framed is often more important than the facts themselves in political debate (Lakoff 2004). For this reason, technical details should not overshadow the wider issues of morality, inequality, and energy-intensive lifestyles associated with CCS. Science should provide an objective foundation for informed discussion, not ‘the final answer’. Any comprehensive debate on CCS should also include alternatives: setting aside CCS can usefully be seen as an opportunity to re-evaluate UK energy policy priorities.

Alternatives

Given the large political investment in CCS, it should come as no surprise that politicians expect ‘serious international and economic implications’ if it fails (Nichols 2011). The recent collapse of the Longannet CCS scheme – backed by £1 billion of government money – led to soul-searching from corporate, political, and environmental commentators (Gersmann and Harvey 2011). Such pessimism is misplaced: a grim outlook for CCS does not mean a grim outlook for all climate and energy strategies. It can be seen as an opportunity.

The time and investment currently earmarked for CCS could be spent on alternatives, which perform better in terms of emissions, energy security, and the economy. A framework for joined-up thinking about energy policies and, crucially, for prioritising investment, is provided by the ‘energy hierarchy’ (figure 2).

Source: ImechE 2009.

The energy hierarchy implies that a break from the existing (growth-centred) approach to energy policy is needed, based on a clear vision of a low-energy future (ImechE 2009). The framework accepts any conceivable energy policy, from CCS (which fits into priority 4) to carbon rationing (priority 1).

It encourages all the options ­– technical and legislative – to be ‘laid on the table’ and considered together. It encourages diverse and mutually reinforcing measures to be pursued in tandem, so a coherent energy strategy can be developed. As well as providing useful categories, the energy hierarchy arranges the available options in order. This is important in ensuring the most effective measures are prioritised. This differs from the thinking behind CCS and its focus on ‘golden bullets’.

UK options

The mix of policies required to bring about a low carbon future in a socially acceptable way is open to debate. However, the government’s botched support for CCS provides important lessons; policies should be based on evidence rather than rhetoric, on past experience rather than wishful thinking. The diversity of options raises the following questions: what would a comprehensive energy strategy, based on the energy hierarchy look like in practice? Which policies would be prioritised?

Many measures in priorities 1 and 2 of the energy hierarchy exist that are more cost-effective, reliable, and faster to implement than CCS. Priority 2 means simply improving the efficiency of buildings, vehicles and appliances. The resulting measures are likely to be attractive politically because they require no change in behaviour. Options include improved regulation of the energy performance of buildings by strengthening implementation of the EU’s energy certificate, offering very low marginal costs or negative abatement costs (Boardman 2007) and furthering the use of vehicle emissions bands to discourage ‘gas guzzlers’ (Ryan et al 2009).

Priority 1 measures cost even less to implement because they require no change to existing technology. Energy conservation implies a change in behaviour and may therefore be seen as more risky politically. Energy rationing has the potential to reduce emissions rapidly in a socially equitable way (Fleming and Chamberlin 2011). More modest legislative changes encouraging energy conservation include fiscally neutral modifications to farming subsidies (Harvey 2008) and rising block energy tariffs (CCC 2009).

These options may not be as grand as CCS, but offer better value for money and can work in synergy. Insulation combined with policies to penalise energy waste is a good example (Boardman 2007), with very low or negative abatement costs. Various insulation measures, including insulated doors, windows and lofts, are associated with negative abatement costs: they pay for themselves (DECC 2011).

A major advantage of ‘demand side’ measures is that they make ‘supply side’ solutions easier to implement, due to lower energy use (MacKay 2009). Conservation measures to promote more flexible electricity demand, for example, would aid the integration of renewables into the National Grid (Bouffard and Kirschen 2008).

Reducing energy wastage – in parallel with efficiency and improved supply-side technology – is a central tenet of the energy hierarchy, and in this sense it follows the waste hierarchy. By illustrating the full range of options the energy hierarchy also encourages finding the best value for money. For example, the £1 billion saved through the collapse of the Longannet CCS scheme could be used to restructure electricity tariffs, so that they penalise waste whilst reducing levels of fuel poverty (Boardman 2010).

The energy hierarchy encourages a wide perspective. Including energy policy within a wider remit of taxes, well-being and equality has a huge potential to produce win-win scenarios. Improved health and emissions outcomes due to cycling policy (Woodcock et al 2007) and aforementioned fuel poverty policies are just a couple of examples. Such measures are ‘low-hanging fruit’ that can be implemented rapidly at comparatively little cost. They should be prioritised, especially in these times of fiscal contraction.

Conclusion

The energy hierarchy approach to energy policy can meet the aim of CCS (reduced greenhouse gas emissions) with lower risks and at a lower cost. Energy conservation and efficiency measures tackle associated problems of resource depletion, energy security and recession: these are issues that CCS could make worse.

This is the advantage of treating the problem – our inability to stop burning fossil fuels – at its root. Rather than relying solely on ‘techno-fixes’ such as CCS or geo-engineering to tackle emissions, the energy hierarchy places CCS in its wider context and considers the demand side. The energy hierarchy encourages the selection of options that are cost-effective, simple, and fast to implement.

The energy hierarchy does not, however, encourage a focus on ‘golden bullets’. A range of measures, from regulation of light bulbs to research into fusion, must be pursued in parallel to tackle the energy/climate problem in the long term; research into carbon sequestration options can be part of the mix.

However, the current government strategy, which uncritically assumes that CCS will work based on scarce evidence and subsequently diverts public money and attention into large and risky schemes, amounts to placing the nation’s future energy options in one weak basket. For a sure energy future, policymakers should take heed of the evidence and prioritise conservation, efficiency, renewables, and only lastly research into riskier options such as CCS.

This article was first published in the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) journal Metis. It aims to provide students with the opportunity to engage with the policy process and gives them a unique platform to express opinions, critiques and solutions.

About the authors:
Robin Lovelace is a PhD student in E-Futures at the University of Sheffield. Robin tweets at @robinlovelace. Luke Temple is a PhD student in Geography at the University of Sheffield. A full list of references for this article can be found on the IPPR website.


[1] Hansard, Parliamentary answers to Malcolm Wicks, Annual Energy Statement, HC Deb, 23 November 2011, c305. Term tracked at http://www.theyworkforyou.com

[2] Patrick Harvey quoted Ehlig-Economides and Economides (2010) to cast doubt on the capacity of pore spaces in rock to sequester CO2 on the scale required. Hansard, Climate Change debate, Scottish Parliament, 18 March 2010, http://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?gid=2010-03-18.24710.3

[3] See Tyndale Centre (2009): ‘On first contact with the idea … most people (48 ±7per cent) are neither for nor against’. And a large amount (38 ±6.5 per cent) expressed ‘slight or strong reservations’.

[4] An international study found ‘low levels of awareness, recognition or understanding of CCS’ (Reiner et al 2005).

[5] A notable exception is ‘Carbon capture is turning out to be just another great green scam’ (Monbiot 2008).

[6] Costs have been estimated by a range of studies. These include estimates reported by the IPCC (2005): $31 to 71 tCO2 and DECC: £100-300/tCO2 by 2050 (quoted in Harland et al 2010).

[7] The UK’s coal imports are double its production (Scrase and Watson 2009). Imports would increase if coal plants fitted with CCS became a major source of new electricity generating capacity, as proposed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC 2010).

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  • Davide Giusti

    First of all you just discovered The Sarmenti water, i.e. rather well known.
    And then, the fact that you do not mention among the possibilities for CO2 to die down the nuclear power clearly shows that the reliability of your analysis must undergo ideological prejudices.
    Regards
    Davide Giusti

  • Robin Lovelace

    Hi Davide Giusti,

    Regarding your comment, “you do not mention among the possibilities for CO2 to die down the nuclear power”, I’m not quite sure what you mean: please clarify. It is an article about CCS, not nuclear power.

    Regarding ideological prejudice, this is a major problem in science communication. The evidence suggests that much of the debate has been influenced by multinational energy corporations. This is problematic, because many industries are not impartial: they stand to benefit from CCS, the contracts it can bring, the use of already tested equipment from the oil industry, and the ideal excuse to continue extracting finite fuels from the Earth’s crust. Therefore, to provide balance, this article presents the rarely mentioned case against CCS.

    However, we have been careful to avoid being influenced by ideological prejudice, other than the premise that the energy resource depletion/waste problem should be tackled in the most appropriate way with the ultimate goal (shared by people on all sides of the debate) of attaining a “post carbon” economy that does not deplete the Earth system’s supply of low entropy resources.

    Thanks for your comment, and apologies if I didn’t fully understand it.
    Welcome comments linking CCS to the “big picture” of how humanity will operate in the long term.

    For interesting references on this, the following may be of interest:

    Odum, H. & Odum, E., 2006. The prosperous way down.

    Rifkin, J., 2011. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Palgrave Macmillan.

    Greer, J.M., 2009. The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World, Aztext Press. Reviewed here: http://nowthenmagazine.com/issue-37/the-ecotechnic-future/

  • Martin Koller

    Hi!

    I’ve some comments and questions:

    1) “The time and investment currently earmarked for CCS could be spent on alternatives, which perform better in terms of emissions, energy security, and the economy.”

    Which alternatives do you prefer? PV (problems with ressources, efficiency and availibility), Hydro (problems with public and environmental organizations), biomass (problems with “bio-ressources” and plant size), wind (problems with public and availibility) or nuclear (no comment)!
    All these options are good (except nuclear in my opinion) but no real alternatives for CCS in a short term. Additionally, our electricity grid is not constructed for this kind of energy supply.

    2) “Lack of scientific knowledge about CCS, such as the impacts on plant efficiency and thereby rates of coal depletion, hinders informed debate on the subject.”

    There is no “scientific lack” on this topic!

    3) I agree with you, that insulation and energy savings are very important and the best way to come to a low carbon future, but this won’t be enough. Hence, in my opinion, CCS is a necessary step. Of course, all questions are not solved yet, but we have to do something now, and in the short and mid term, CCS IS a good choice.

    Best regards!

    • Luke Temple

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your comments. To address them in order:

      1)This article was less about presenting specific alternatives, and rather about presenting an approach to thinking about alternatives. In this case we hope policy-makers will consider the broad range of potential alternatives with an eye to their sustainability. Currently, we feel the forum of debate is not wide enough; considerations of funding are of course important, but they can impact upon the quality of debate. We thought this was a pertinent issue with CCS.

      2)Leading on from this, the lack of scientific knowledge we refer to is inside the policy-making circles, not a comment on the academic field. Robin examined the parliamentary reports from Hansard and found very little evidence that any politician understood the process of CCS well enough to be making multi-million pound decisions on its implementation (and directing funds away from other alternatives).

      3)Finally, we agree with the first bit of this but on the second bit we obviously don’t, but the more voices are heard and the more evidence considered the better.

      Cheers! Luke & Robin

  • Giorgio Caramanna

    Dear Authors,

    My comment focuses on the 4th point in your section “The case against CCS”.

    As reference for a supposed non-suitability of geological storage you use the Economides papers which are quite controversial in their scientific validity.

    No mention is given to other studies on the availability of geological formations suitable for CO2 storage (as example, but not limited to, I would suggest the recently published Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/carbon_seq/refshelf/atlasIII/index.html).

    Moreover a large number of geological formations are already retaining CO2 on geological time-scales, as example in the Colorado Plateau (Bravo Dome, Mc Elmo Dome, etc.) being their CO2 used for EOR applications.

    I strongly encourage you to a more accurate literature review on the availability of geological formations suitable for CO2 storage.

    Thank you for your kind attention.

    Best regards

    Giorgio Caramanna MSc, PhD
    Geologist

    • Robin Lovelace

      Many thanks for the links to the technical aspects of CO2 sequestration. Totally agree, we need more public dissemination of hard data. Appendix C, for example, is fascinating: it lists all the Stationary Sources of CO2 Emissions by State/Province. This is very useful for assessing the feasibility of CCS. The scale of the problem faced by people tasked with developing systems to pump CO2 underground such that leakage can be guaranteed to be less than 1% per year for thousands of years must be immense:
      http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n7/full/ngeo896.html

      Alberta, for example, has 305 large fixed source of CO2. What proportion of these do you think could realistically be retrofitted with CCS plants by 2050? A network of high pressure stainless steel pipelines would need to transport 208 Million Metric Tons of CO2 each year for CCS to prevent emissions from in Alberta, and that’s just fixed sources! (Please see page 154 of Appendix C for the data: http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/carbon_seq/refshelf/atlasIII/2010AtlasIII_AppendixC.pdf )

      Vaclav Smil also highlights the scale of the challenge, by comparing CCS to the global oil industry and calculating to vast volumes of CO2 that would need to be sequestered, transported, pressurized and dumped. For more on this Environmental Science perspective please see his comments in a televised interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9zHpdkGFtQ&feature=plcpc

      Many thanks for engaging in constructive debate and providing the public with hard data. Objective information about the physical characteristics of the problem (and its shear scale!) is needed for politicians to make tough decisions about the allocation of scarce public funding.

      Robin

      • Robin Lovelace

        One more link about public engagement in how best to tackle the CO2 problem, with a focus on CCS. Please see this excellent video:

        http://www.kairostudio.it/en/the-arctic-adventures-of-dioxy/

        Jazz and the CCS debate go hand-in-hand!

      • Giorgio Caramanna

        Dear Robin,

        We may discuss of many issues still open for CCS but my point, as clearly indicated in my post, is that the assumption that there are no enough geological formations to safely store CO2 is wrong.

        Best.

        Giorgio

        • Robin

          Hi Giorgio,

          Thanks for bringing me back to your original point and sorry for deviating from it – distracted by official data on emissions from fixed sources and jazz.

          First I’d like to point out that at no point have we made the assertion that “there are no enough geological formations to safely store CO2″. We do highlight the fact that there is a scientific debate about the ability of rocks to store CO2. This is perhaps best illustrated by the wide gap in opinions between Economides and Economides (2010) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0920410509002368

          and the authors who refute their work. To explore this issue, let’s take a look at peer reviewed academic journals that quote the article. What is interesting to me is that while some strongly deny the validity of the research (this is a good example, and appears to have been under review by Nature for over a year: http://precedings.nature.com/documents/4500/version/1 – notice that one of the authors is a Shell executive http://tinyurl.com/8w49e8a – and one of the others works for a company who publicly acknowledge their lobbying activities – http://www.claverton-energy.com/energy-experts-online/lobbying ), some research also seems to build on at least one part of their work:

          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016236111004078 . The authors state: “This further supports the theory that cyclic injection is beneficial to the storage capacity of carbon dioxide in deep saline aquifers [18]” -

          Given that methodologies for assessing the storage capacity and probability distributions of leakage under different injection scenarios have not been settled, it seems premature to be able to state categorically that there is, as you say, “enough geological formations to safely store CO2″.

          Of course, certain very stable geological formations may have a very low probability of leakage over thousands of years. There may be enough of these worldwide, but whether it is viable to transport the gas to them, drill thousands of injection holes, and monitor them all is an entirely different matter. We need more evidence that good CO2 storage formations are fortuitously located close to large fixed sources of CO2. Further research is needed. A map of seemingly viable storage formations overlaid with a map of large stationary sources would be very useful here. (More hard data please!)

          Of course, geology is not my area, let alone geology applied to the long-term gas injection rates and probability distributions of leakage of underground CO2 over thousands of years. I may have made some fundamental errors in assessing the evidence I have seen. I would be grateful if you could point these errors out and point me in the direction of more research about what good formations for CO2 storage look like and where they are located. That’s surely the nature of reasoned debate. It’s especially relevant if one’s aim is to have balanced debate about whether CCS is the best option for mitigating climate change or not, as was the aim of our article. For this, more evidence is needed on many fronts.

          To provide just one example, we need more CCS research of the type now being conducted in Svalbard, before very firm conclusions can be drawn about the suitability of the rock deposits there to store CO2 (http://co2-ccs.unis.no/ ).

          Many thanks for the constructive comment, and apologies again for failing to answer your question directly – CCS is a very large and complex field for scientists, let alone for politicians needing to make rapid decisions that appease may different lobby groups simultaneously! As you rightly say, the question of how likely CO2 is to leak out has great implications for evaluating public funding for commercial CCS schemes. The evidence does not suggest that people have the depth of knowledge to be certain about leakage or optimal injection flow rates in the long term.

          Final thoughts regarding the long-term storage capacity and flow rates of various geological deposits: “Plan for the worst, hope for the best”. This is the precautionary principle, which, alongside the energy hierarchy, should be part of the decision making process. Hope this better answers your question – please let me know and supply more evidence!

          Robin

  • Rohan Desilva

    Hi Guys,

    Does the University of Sheffield have a Geology Department? You really should talk to some Geologists. Quoting “Ehlig-Economides and Economides 2010″ as indicative of geological storage capacity issues is (to put it at its mildest) quite incredible. Try searching for “Economides Rebuttal”, unless you really don’t want to since it might spoil your argument.

    This link gives a comprehensive distillation of the multiple rebuttals and the flaws in the Econonomides pair’s assessments:
    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gperidas/economides_x2_try_their_hand_a.html

    • Robin Lovelace

      Hi Rohan,

      Thanks for the link to a blog: any chance of a link to peer review articles? Would be useful if you could quote the statements that unambiguously rebut their argument.

      Also, it would be preferable if the peer review articles you cite are not written by academics such as Professor Stuart Haszeldine, who appears to be “intimately involved with” promoting CCS: http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/rsh

      As Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” I believe there may be an element of that in the CCS debate. Many of those defending public money being transferred into the hands of privately owned fossil fuel companies are paid (albeit usually indirectly to do so).

      Thanks for your suggestion to “Try searching for “Economides Rebuttal”, unless you really don’t want to” (the second part was unnecessary – this should be a friendly debate). Well I did, in Google Scholar, and no results appear:
      http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&num=100&ie=UTF-8&q=%E2%80%9CEconomides+Rebuttal%E2%80%9D

      As you would agree, it is important to focus on objective peer reviewed evidence when dealing with such an emotive subject. I see panicky, at times ad-hominem “rebuttals” of pro-CCS individuals (some of whom are paid indirectly by large fossil fuel corps). Could this be evidence of a pro-CCS mantra, whereby anyone who criticises public funding of large CCS schemes gets bombarded by a load of non-objective, non-peer reviewed opinions. (On that note, I AM in favour of research into CCS to see if it will work or not, just not billions of pounds being allocated for reducing emissions – more cost effective alternatives are available in terms of £/tCO2 as highlighted in the article.)

      Thanks for directing me to the geology department: we unfortunately lack one in the University of Sheffield. We have access to some excellent geologists such as John Cripps. I will try to ask people at coffee break this morning who I can speak to for geological expertise.

      It was my understanding the geology is one of the weakest points for CCS, so I’m surprised you bring it up in a comment that seems to be in favour of investing public money in CCS projects undertaken by multinational fossil fuel corporations. (Here’s a peer review article to support this: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n7/full/ngeo896.html .) Here I quote from the abstract, published in Nature Geoscience:
      “Most of the investigated scenarios result in a large, delayed warming in the atmosphere as well as oxygen depletion, acidification and elevated CO2 concentrations in the ocean.”

      Many thanks for your comment, and great to hear people who are in favour of CCS consider other sides of the argument and engage in constructive debate.
      Robin

  • Rowena Ball

    I see that in the Energy Hierarchy diagram, ‘Priority 1′ is given as ‘Energy Conservation’.

    But energy is ALWAYS conserved. That is the first law of thermodynamics. Therefore it would hardly seem necessary to develop an entire policy devoted to prioritising investment in energy conservation.

    But perhaps the author really means to refer to exergy and second law considerations?

    But exergy and entropy are NEVER conserved so it would also be quite wrong to have an ‘exergy conservation’ policy!

    This illustrates the pitfalls of writing about energy while ignoring the laws of thermodynamics and basic physics.

    • Luke Temple

      Thanks for the comment Rowena.

      In the article, priority 1 is given as: “Energy Conservation. Changing wasteful behaviour to reduce demand”. This is the language used by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (see http://www.imeche.org/Libraries/Position_Statements-Energy/EnergyHierarchyIMechEPolicy.sflb.ashx ).

      As this article was for the Institute for Public Policy Research, we’d argue that in policy discussions “Energy Conservation” is used as a shortcut for efforts that try to reduce energy consumption behaviour, particularly when dependent on fossil fuels. In this respect, the piece does not ignore the laws of thermodynamics and basic physics.

      Whether this shortcut is acceptable is certainly an interesting question in itself, and there should be a discussion on using accurate scientific terminology in policy debate. However, the focus of this paper was specifically on CCS in energy policy.

      Cheers, Luke

  • GS RADJOU

    Hello guys,
    have you heared about Germany and Poland using carbon Capture instead of nuclear power plants to fuel their economies-
    Germany is planning to use coal as a renewable energies to replace 20% losses originated from the shut of Germany nuclear power plants (following Fukushima disaster)
    Poland , which 80% of Energy sustainability is originated from coal, is planting to process coal waste with carbon capture.
    Would it work? (is it sustainable) In fact, it is the green parties that are fuming….What about UNFCCC contraction and convergence plan?
    Regards
    BIRD-www.slideshare.net/gsradjou

  • Jon

    I think fusion is closer than decent CCS

  • nick

    On the “Priorities” figure above, conservation and efficiency are declared most sustainable. However, these two activities simply mean one uses less of a finite resource- how can that be considered sustainable? Energy efficiency is certainly a necessary part of tomorrow’s clean energy paradigm, but energy efficiency in the context of a fossil-fuel dominated energy supply simply means we deplete our resources at a different rate, and is inherently UNsustainable.