We have written recently about what a shambles we feel the whole cap and trade policy is in the US and how it is essentially a form of taxation but that the funds will flow as much into private coffers as the state, as can be evidenced by the enthusiasm with which major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs are supporting it. However Cap and Trade may be what we are going to get and so along with federal tax credits for green technologies we may expect to see a plethora of projects that are essentially subsidized by the tax payer in the name of saving the environment.
Unfortunately even as technologies that could make a rapid contribution to reducing carbon emissions such as more efficient coal fired power stations are shunned by our politicians in the interests of long term pipe dreams ” read this article in the NY Times about FutureGen ” it is hard to see what benefit the changes will bring apart from just increasing cost. However one exception is a project that may reach fruition on the back of federal tax credits in New Jersey of all places. We say it in that manner because a coal fired power station has not been built in the state since the mid 90’s but if this manages to gather all the permits and approvals necessary it will be because it is designed to not release any carbon dioxide according to a NY Times article. The idea is to liquefy the CO2, pump it 70 miles off shore in a 2ft diameter pipe and then bury it one mile below the ocean floor in sandstone beds. The CO2 would displace seawater through a second drill hole and it is claimed would remain buried in the rock for eons. The project is to cost $5bn on current estimates but would become progressively more economical as carbon emissions become progressively more expensive. The Norwegians have been doing something similar in the Sleipner Field under the North Sea for the last 13 years, and oil wells in Texas frequently use CO2 to boost recovery rates, so the technology is largely proven.
Indeed coal fired power stations still hold enormous promise to produce economical lower carbon emission energy if the administration’s energy department and the environmental lobby can just get over their hang ups about coal being the cause of climate change. Even China is proving with their latest power stations that carbon emissions a third to a half of older plants are possible without government subsidy simply by embracing new higher temperature burn technology, coal gasification and the economies of scale that come with a concerted effort to replace old polluting plants with modern much cleaner plants. Meanwhile law makers in the US and Europe are clinging onto the zero emission nirvana of wind and solar power with all the accompanying hurdles that those technologies are going to have to overcome before they can realistically provide the majority of society’s power demand some decades into the future. Meanwhile we continue to pump millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere when technology exists to dramatically reduce it.