Inconvenient truth–Nobody knows how to meet world power needs without emissions

Kyotoites assure us we can have our cake and eat it too. We can meet the world’s surging demand for affordable energy and, at the same time, dramatically reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.

Even carbon-intensive coal, we are assured, will have a future on Planet Gore, because technology will soon make it economical to capture the emissions and store billions of tons of CO2 underground in geologic formations.

Planet Ark reports that Britain and Norway are trying to amend the 1992 Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (the “OSPAR Convention ”) so that the treaty no longer prohibits as “waste dumping” the injection and storage of CO2 under the seabed in the North Sea. Behold—a major environmental treaty is holding up efforts to save the planet! More proof that the law is a Arse.

But here’s the important thing about this article. It reveals that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a long, long way from being commercially viable. Consider these excerpts:

EU members have drafted plans to build 12 CCS facilities by 2015. But the high costs of CCS projects mean they would likely breech EU caps on state aid at 40 percent of investment costs. “CCS may initially need to be supported by (state aid) up to 100 percent, breaching EU rules,” [UK Energy Minister Lord] Truscott said, adding that ways to circumvent such regulations were being discussed. “The fact is that if we don’t give considerable support this will not happen and the EU knows that.”

Norway has 10 years of experience of injecting CO2 into the Sleipner field in the North Sea and has given public aid to create technology needed to lower CCS costs. “The main task is to increase work on cost reduction needed for CCS to succeed,” [Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Minister Odd Roger] Enoksen told reporters. “Right now, it’s still impossible to say when CCS will be commercially viable.” Enoksen said the costs of CCS needed to be reduced by roughly three-quarters for the process to become viable without state aid, depending on the price of carbon emissions.

Cost is not the only obstacle to deploying CCS on a large scale:

Enoksen said long-term liability issues were another major hurdle blocking undersea CCS, as there are no rules on what companies or countries should be responsible for maintaining the storage facilities and ensuring no leakage.

Still another impediment to large-scale CCS deployment is NIMBYISM. Once captured, the CO2 must be liquefied in order to be transported to geologic storage sites. A recent MIT study estimates that U.S. coal-fired power plants produce 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year. “If all of this CO2 is transported for sequestration [storage], the quantity is equivalent to three times the weight and, under typical operating conditions, one-third of the annual volume of natural gas transported by the U.S. gas pipeline system.”

Now tell me, who wants one of those giant CO2 pipelines in his back yard? How many years will it take to complete the environmental impact statements? Will lawmakers, governors, and green groups welcome the siting of CO2 depositories in their states?

The history of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada, nuclear waste depository suggests otherwise.

The U.S. Department of Energy began studying Yucca Mountain as a possible depository for spent nuclear fuel in 1978. After billions of dollars and years of investigation, Yucca is scheduled to open in 2017. Yet that is problematic, because NIMBY political opposition runs strong. In the 2006 mid-term elections, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared, “Yucca Mountain is dead. It will never happen.”

Large-scale carbon capture and storage may not happen either, for both economic and political reasons. From which the obvious follows: In Planet Gore, there will be no place for coal, America’s most plentiful, affordable, and secure source of energy.