Catching up on carbon capture projects

 

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.

To branch off the film’s bleak theories and into another circular news thread with no resolution in sight, it seems the idea of capturing carbon from high-emissions industries and sequestering it within the Earth is facing serious pessimism. Dr. Sally Benson, professor and executive director of the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University, says U.S. companies in the West that once led the charge are starting to waver.

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.

One group, the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, has a carbon strategy that some say falls a little short. Its representatives, who hail from seven states including Montana and Wyoming, recently announced a plan to lobby Congress for tax breaks for companies that capture and transport carbon dioxide used to enhance oil recovery in older fields. The group says their plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4 billion tons over 40 years, though the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has expressed caution over the group’s plan to win carbon storage credits by injecting the wells with CO2, which displaces petroleum for extraction, "We need to make sure the operators perform sufficient diligence to make sure the wells are not leaking, and that they characterize their fields and know where their CO2 is going," NRDC scientist George Peridas told the Great Falls Tribune.

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.

Images courtesy Flickr users Kathryn and Bruno D Rodrigues.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a friendly, detail-oriented, and self-motivated Development Coordinator to provide administrative support to the Development department. This position will report to...
  • FIELD ORGANIZER, MONTANA
    Help Northern Plains Resource Council protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the...
  • FOR SALE
    Successful llama trekking business with Yellowstone National Park concession for sale! A fun and enriching business opportunity of a lifetime! Call 406-580-5954
  • ALBUQUERQUE VACATION HOME
    Centrally located. One bed, one bath, lovely outdoor patio, well-stocked kitchen.
  • NEW AGRARIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Quivira (www.quiviracoaltion.org), a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship to those that produce good food, support meaningful...
  • SPECTACULAR SCENIC MOUNTAIN VIEW HOME BUILDING SITE
    Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    opportunity in Eugene, Oregon! To learn more and to apply, visit our website at www.bufordpark.org.
  • FUNDRAISING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Does the prospect of working to protect one of the Southwest's last remaining flowing rivers get you excited? Join the team at Friends of the...
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
    Position Summary Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a dynamic, organized, and creative Digital Engagement Specialist to be an essential part of our growing Communications Team....
  • NORTH IDAHO FIELD REPRESENTATIVE
    Founded by sportsmen and women 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to conserving and enhancing Idaho's natural resources, wildlife, habitat,...
  • SMALL HISTORICAL FARM FOR SALE - NEW MEXICO
    23-acres, adobe home, shop, barn, gardens, pasture, orchard. https://www.zillow.com/homes/222-Calle-Del-Norte,-Monticello,-Nm_rb/ or call 575-743-0135.
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year round outdoor living. REDUCED to: $1.17 MM 575-536-3109
  • GRANTS MANAGER AND EDITOR
    Are you a strong communicator who excels at building relationships, writing winning grant proposals, and staying organized? You sound like a good fit for our...
  • REPORTER
    The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • 2017 JOHN DEERE LAWN MOWER Z930R
    15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • OWN YOUR OWN CANYON - 1400 SF STRAW-BALE ECO-HOME ON 80 ACRES - 3 HOURS FROM L.A.
    1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • HEAD BREAD/PASTRY BAKER AND ASSISTANT POSITIONS
    Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921