Archive for September 6th, 2010

Beware of Greens Bearing Gifts

September 6, 2010

By Steve Milloy
September 3, 2010, Charleston Daily Mail

Energy Secretary Steven Chu visits the University of Charleston on Sept. 8 to resurrect cap-and-trade via the Trojan Horse of carbon capture and sequestration.

President Obama’s radical agenda to destroy the coal industry is on the ropes in Congress.

Since the House passed the Waxman-Markey bill in June 2009, it’s been all downhill for cap-and-trade – done in by the Climategate exposure of global warming’s fraudulent science, and the anticipated job losses and higher energy costs associated with cap-and-trade, all amid the worst economic downturn in 70 years.

The Obama administration’s gambit for getting West Virginians on the cap-and-trade bandwagon is to buy the state off with carbon capture and storage.

Why shouldn’t West Virginia just make the cap-and-trade deal and take the CCS money and run?

Because the exchange means the end of the West Virginia’s golden goose – the coal industry.

The administration is holding out the promise of perhaps billions of dollars for utilities to develop practical technologies for capturing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants, injecting the emissions underground, and hoping they stay there safely.

It’s a win-win, according to the Obama administration. The coal industry remains alive as the state gets extra money and jobs to bury coal-related emissions.

This may sound like a good, if not great, deal, but it’s really the classic sucker’s bet.

The reality is that carbon capture and storage is physically, financially and politically impractical, not to mention futile in terms of avoiding global warming.

University of Houston petroleum engineer Michael Economides estimates that it would take a land mass the size of the state of Maryland to store the CO2 emissions from a single 500-megawatt power plant – and there are more than 200 plants of that size in the U.S.

The costs of carbon capture and storage are budget-busting, especially for a cash-strapped federal government.

It would cost billions of dollars per power plant to install the equipment to capture CO2 emissions, and billions more to drill the numerous injection wells needed to get it underground.

Untold billions of dollars will be needed to purchase rights of way for pipelines.

Still billions more would be required to build and maintain the pipelines from power plants to geographically suitable areas for storing CO2.

Carbon capture and storage requires about 30 percent more energy to capture CO2. Even more energy will be required to pump the CO2 hundreds of miles through pipelines.

Beyond the physical and financial hurdles, there are the local politics, including the debate surrounding the risks of underground CO2 storage. Stored CO2 may leak and acidify groundwater.

Underground CO2 exploded in Cameroon in 1986, asphyxiating people and cattle.

Keep in mind, too, that environmental activists have blocked the storage of spent nuclear fuel one mile underground in an isolated section of the Nevada desert at Yucca Mountain.

Does anyone really believe people will allow pressurized CO2 to be stored under wide swaths of populated areas?

Carbon capture and storage has already given rise to its own slang – NUMBY-ism or “not-under my backyard.”

The futility of carbon capture and storage is best considered in light of the fact that capturing all the CO2 emissions emitted by every coal-burning power plant in the U.S. would make precious little difference to atmospheric CO2 levels.

Over the course of 100 years, it would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by less than 3 percent. Compare that with the fact that mankind has added about 10 percent to CO2 levels just in the past 15 years with no discernible impact on global climate.

Cap-and-trade’s anti-coal carbon caps will be a certainty, while capture and storage is anything but.

In the end, West Virginia will likely be stuck with coal-killing policies even as carbon capture and storage goes the way of the Jimmy Carter-era synfuels boondoggle.

Coal provides West Virginia with 90,000 direct and indirect jobs and $6 billion in annual economic value. Carbon capture and storage will never come close to approaching the value of coal to West Virginia.

A word to the West Virginia-wise: Beware of Greens bearing gifts.

Milloy publishes and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.”