Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GAO Report On Federal Actions On Carbon Capture & Storage

Sep 30: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Climate Change: Federal Actions Will Greatly Affect the Viability of Carbon Capture and Storage As a Key Mitigation Option (GAO-08-1080, September 30, 2008).

As requested by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, GAO examined (1) key economic, legal, regulatory, and technological barriers impeding commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and (2) actions the Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. EPA, and other agencies are taking to overcome barriers to commercial-scale deployment of CCS technology. Among other things, GAO examined key studies and contacted officials from pertinent agencies, companies, and environmental groups, as well as research and other organizations.

GAO said that nationally-recognized studies and its contacts with a diverse group of industry representatives, nongovernmental organizations, and academic researchers show that key barriers to CCS deployment include: (1) underdeveloped and costly CO2 capture technology and (2) regulatory and legal uncertainties over CO2 capture, injection, and storage. Key technological barriers include a lack of experience in capturing significant amounts of CO2 from commercial-scale power plants and the significant cost of retrofitting existing plants that are the single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States.

Regulatory and legal uncertainties include questions about liability concerning CO2 leakage and ownership of CO2 once injected. According to the National Academy of Sciences and other knowledgeable authorities, another barrier is the absence of a national strategy to control CO2 emissions trading plan, CO2 emissions tax, or other mandatory control of CO2 emissions), without which the electric utility industry has little incentive to capture and store its CO2 emissions. Moreover, according to key agency officials, the absence of a national strategy to control CO2 emissions has also deterred their agencies from resolving other important practical issues, such as how sequestered CO2 will be transported from power plants to appropriate storage locations and how stored CO2 would be treated in a future CO2 emissions trading plan.

Among GAO’s recommendations are that (1) DOE continue to place greater emphasis on CO2 capture at existing power plants and (2) EPA examine how its statutory authorities can be used to address potential CCS barriers. DOE neither explicitly agreed nor disagreed with the first recommendation. EPA expressed general agreement with the second recommendation.

Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, who requested the study said, “If carbon sequestration technologies are going to get off -- and into -- the ground, we must have national limits on global warming pollution and an administration dedicated to promoting climate-friendly technologies. Solving coal’s climate conundrum is as vital as any challenge we face in battling global warming, and half-measures just won’t cut it.”

In a release Markey indicated that the GAO report says ". . .climate-fighting carbon sequestration technologies won’t significantly advance until a national strategy to regulate carbon emissions and interagency cooperation measures are established. The report shines a light on the lack of leadership from the Bush administration on global warming and climate-friendly technologies."

Access the complete 72-page GAO report (
click here). Access a release from Chairman Markey (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]