Takedown of the CBO Carbon Capture and Storage Report

In late June, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported on Federal Efforts to Reduce the Cost of Capturing and Storing Carbon Dioxide. Without needing to know too much about carbon capture and storage (CCS), one can clearly see that commercializing technology to store liquefied CO2 underground is not something the federal government should be involved with.

We’ll break down the report, so you can be prepared in case this issue finds its way into Congress:

“One much-discussed option for reducing the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while preserving its ability to produce electricity at coal-fired power plants is to capture the CO2 that is emitted when the coal is burned, compress it into a fluid, and then store it deep underground.”

Okay, first off, let’s say that CCS was a proven and viable option, would environmentalists allow it? If they disapprove of hydraulic fracking and storing spent nuclear fuel in Yucca Mountain, would they approve of CCS, even if it was supposed to alleviate so-called global warming problems?

“That process—commonly called carbon capture and storage (CCS)—has not been widely adopted because any electricity generated by such plants would be much more expensive than electricity produced by conventional coal-burning plant. Since 2005, lawmakers have provided the Department of Energy (DOE) with about $6.9 billion to further develop CCS technology, demonstrate its commercial feasibility, and reduce the cost of electricity generated by CCS-equipped plants.”

So, the government has already invested $6.9 billion worth of taxpayer funds and the technology is still far too expensive? We’re spending money in areas the private sector would invest in if it were a worthwhile technology; of course taxpayers are not getting a return on that investment!

“Engineers have estimated that, on average, electricity generated by the first CCS-equipped commercial-scale plants would initially be about 75 percent more costly than electricity generated by conventional coal-fired plants.”

You know that when a preferred technology is too expensive for commercial use, the government subsidizes it. That’s the only reason wind and solar are still around. Knowing Washington’s history, it’s not a stretch to expect the initial expense of CCS would be subsidized by taxpayers.

“DOE aims to bring down the additional costs for generating electricity with CCS technology to no more than 35 percent, or less than half the current cost premium.”

Great. We can see where this is going.

“Such a reduction in costs might be accomplished over time through learning-by-doing, which would require that a certain amount of new generating capacity be built—in the form of new coal-fired CCS-equipped generating plants. Using the historical pace of reductions in costs for earlier emissions-control technologies, CBO estimates that more than 200 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity with CCS capabilities will have to be built to meet DOE’s cost reduction goal. That estimate of new capacity, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of the total current capacity of U.S. coal-powered electricity-generation plants, is subject to considerable uncertainty.”

And, two-thirds of the current U.S. coal capacity is needed just to make this technology 35% more expensive than coal-powered electricity? We have to increase our energy capacity by two-thirds and we’ll still be paying more? Who comes up with this stuff?

Who do you think will be made to pay for the new capacity? That’s right, you. That’s the way it always is with failing technologies.

 “The demand for electricity in the United States is growing slowly, and even if DOE’s cost reduction target was attained, coal-fired power plants equipped with CCS technology would not be competitive with coal-fired plants that lacked it unless policies restricting CO2 emissions or imposing a price on them were adopted.”

In 2008, then-Senator Obama said “under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” This is just another way of imposing government mandates in order to shift Americans onto more expensive, but politically favored energy sources. In order to make CCS viable, the government would have to penalize less expensive energy sources, which would hurt American consumers even further than the initial taxes imposed on them to pay for the new energy in the first place.

The government needs to get out of the way when it comes to energy and let the free market and consumers decide which energy fuels our economy. This is why legislation like the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act is so important. Government should stop subsidizing all energy and make the different technologies within the energy industry truly compete in order to lower costs.

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