On a recent bike ride home from Paonia's Paradise Theater, where the evening film was Melancholia, Lars Von Trier’s surreal goodbye to planet Earth, I observed the starry Colorado sky like a born-again tramp and only slightly avoided succumbing to the dolor from the film's creeping commentary on humanity’s desperate plight against a doomed existence.
After ebullient funding for research through the middle of the last decade, utilities and energy producers feel disinclined to pursue the practice of capturing carbon dioxide from belching sources and storing it somewhere that it can't escape, especially as they learn the price tag for such technology starts at around $3 billion for coal-fired power plants. That equates to a 30 to 70 percent rate hike for energy users receiving power from such plants. Meanwhile, at least one carbon capture and storage research plant in Wyoming, operated by North American Power Group Ltd. has been questioned in the media for using federal stimulus dollars to pay their executives handsomely rather than providing any new jobs.
Dr. Benson recently told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that there is "an overall lack of confidence in the capacity, safety and permanence of sequestration in deep geological formations." Plus, the world’s impasse on exactly what to do about climate change has left polluters complacent.
This is not to say that the fight’s over for Dr. Benson. She says that capturing carbon from power plants would decrease total CO2 emissions by 10 percent and that it’s something that must happen in emerging countries like China and India.
Not every human believes CO2 emissions need curbing or that they have a negative impact on our atmosphere, yet the reactions of some people to a day of reckoning are terrible to imagine. One character in Melancholia poisoned himself in a horse stable rather than face the truth when he realized the world would end. Of course, rather than a rogue planet suddenly fulfilling Earth’s fiery demise, the effects of global warming are unfolding like an ephemeral change of tides. Thus people like me cycle merrily along the potholed streets at the tail end of this Rocky Mountain winter, in shorts and sandals, wistfully ignorant of the larger calamity at hand.
I mean, what exactly are we going to do?
Neil LaRubbio is an intern at High Country News.