Government report backs controversial carbon sequestration plans

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Despite concern that it's ineffective and potentially dangerous, a government task force has concluded that there's no reason carbon sequestration shouldn't be introduced on a large scale within the next ten years.

The report by the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage conceded that there are issues to resolve, but said carbon capture and storage (CSS) technology is viable, with no insurmountable technical, legal, or institutional problems.

CSS is designed to counter the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels by locking away the carbon generated underground or elsewhere.

“The plan released today marks a significant step towards being able to utilize our nation’s vast coal resources while decreasing carbon emissions, and leading the world in this emerging market," says Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon.

"We need to develop carbon capture and sequestration technologies — and the jobs that come with them — here in the US."

Committee member Rep Jerry Costello said that CSS techniques justified the use of fossil fuels - something he's rather pleased about.

“This report again shows that coal, our most abundant domestic energy resource, is a viable part of our energy future,” he said.  “The coal reserves in my home state of Illinois contain more Btu's than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait."
 
But many scientists, including Gary Shaffer of the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, believe that there's a significant danger of leakage from such projects.

"One should not underestimate potential short and long-term problems with leakage from underground reservoirs. Carbon in light form will seek its way out of the ground or seabed. The present situation in the Gulf of Mexico is a poignant reminder of that," says Shaffer.

Carbon sequestration should not be used as an argument for continued high fossil fuel emissions, he says.

"On the contrary, we should greatly limit CO2 emissions in our time to reduce the need for massive carbon sequestration and thus reduce unwanted consequences and burdens over many future generations from the leakage of sequestered CO2."