According to numerous reports, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to unveil power plant rules that would rely on so-called ‘carbon capture’ technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There are substantial problems with this approach that should provoke serious reservations.
Failed technology that still does not exist
Despite considerable public investment, there are still no power plants equipped with carbon capture technology. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a series of high profile failures; even the most ‘successful’ efforts fell well short of emissions reductions goals. The few carbon capture facilities that exist are overwhelmingly geared towards extracting more oil.
The costs would be astronomical
Carbon capture relies on a tax program called 45Q, which delivers tax credits for every ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and sequestered. The tax incentives were greatly expanded in the Inflation Reduction Act; they went from $50 per metric ton to $85 for geologically stored carbon, and from $35 to $60 per ton if the captured carbon is used for oil extraction.
Widely adopted carbon capture technology would represent a massive corporate subsidy, paid by the public. While it is difficult to project total costs, the total could very easily amount to tens of billions of dollars every year.
Credits program marred by fraud, lack of transparency
The 45Q tax credit program that was expanded under the Inflation Reduction Act should be considered its own scandal. The IRS does not identify the companies receiving the credits; all that is known is that ten companies claimed about $1 billion in credits between 2010 and 2019. But most of the companies did not have the required programs to monitor or verify that they are actually capturing carbon or appropriately storing it. At bare minimum, 45Q should be brought out of the shadows, so that the public and lawmakers can see if the process is even working.
Hype about hydrogen alternative is dangerous
Some reports indicate that the new rules might offer power plant operators some flexibility to meet emissions reductions goals by blending hydrogen into their gas supplies. But it is not clear whether this is even possible; using small amounts of hydrogen will have little impact on reducing climate emissions, and higher blends would require substantial upgrades to existing facilities and pipelines. Hydrogen presents additional dangers of accidents or explosions as well.