In part one I compared Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to an alternative way of mitigating CO2 emissions, in this case a Wind Farm. Most of the analysis focused on the actual emission of CO2. In part 2, I'm going to look at other environmental factors in comparing the two.
As stated in part one, CCS captures most (around 85%) of CO2 from a coal power plant, and buries it deep underground. Unfortunately, not all coal power plants are going to be located close to a site that is suited for burying the CO2. And once it is buried, are we 100% sure it would never leak out? The possibility existst that the CO2 could leak out of rock formations over time, making the CCS technology a waste of money, or at worst, it could leak out all at once, and cause THIS to happen.
As you know by now, this blog is all about Sustainable decisions. Is CCS really a sustainable decision? Or is it some technology that the Coal Industry is praying gets adopted. Is CCS not the ultimate example of treating the SYMPTOMS (CO2) and not the actual DISEASE (fossil fuel power)?
I realize that for the near future, Coal power is going to be a necessity. Despite what Al Gore says, I dont think it is feasibly possible to generate 100% of our power from renewables in 10 years. But I do think we should be doing all we can in that time to advance alternative generation technology so that at some point we WILL be able to generate 100% free of fossil fuel. Carbon Capture really does nothing to advance alternative forms of generation. It doesn't advance the technology or bring down costs. It does act as a band aid for the coal industry.
But ignoring CO2 emissions for the moment, how else does CCS help our environment? If we are all honest with ourselves, we have to admit that a tiny chance exists that CCS will have zero impact on the environment. And how does CCS address the wonderful Coal questions of mountaintop removal, coal ash sludge ponds, mercury and other hazardous emissions ? It doesn't.
Sustainability is about looking at the BIG PICTURE. Step back for a minute and really think about whether you think spending billions of dollars to bury CO2 underground is really a sustainable decision? If the government is setting aside this money, could the government use that same money for a more sustainable decision? Would supporting alternative generation, or protecting rainforests, or educating citizens on the virtues of conservation all have a greater environmental impact on this planet than CCS?
For more information, check out the report that Greenpeace released.