US plans to throw $500 million at pointless carbon capture

A $500 million investment in carbon capture has been proposed to the US government this week in a bill to promote “green economic growth”, but with technology improving lethargically, this appears to be another disguised attempt to keep the fossil fuel industry alive as renewables gather pace.

Congresswoman Cheri Busos introduced legislation on Tuesday to provide finance for the facilitation of a new carbon capture infrastructure in the US, with a low-interest loan structure for trunk and feeder lines. These lines would enable carbon to be transported from its origins at power plants, to sites where it may be used, stored or reprocessed.

The US currently has 5,000 miles of existing CO2 pipeline, with much of this leading to the Permian Basin, where CO2 is stored following a process of enhanced oil recovery.

Carbon capture technology is still reasonably immature, but since 2005 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been keen to highlight its benefits, and the necessity to use it to keep climate change below 1.5 degrees Celsius. While techniques vary, most operate on the principle that CO2 is found attached to other chemicals in smoke, which can often be separated through a heating-with-steam process. In essence this is attractive as it would allow economies like the US to burn fossil fuels, especially natural gas, in a guilt-free fashion.

However, most research regarding the expensive technology has shown it to be nowhere near effective enough. A net reduction of only 10.5% of CO2 can be achieved from the emissions at coal-fired power stations in some cases according to Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, before upstream emissions are even considered.

Carbon capture seems to be one of several excuses being used to justify an addiction to natural gas and its use in the transition to net-zero emissions.

The development of a large pipeline project would take time, and as renewables edge closer to parity with natural gas across the US, which has already occurred in some states, investment in assets which will eventually become stranded is something that is unlikely to pass through the house unnoticed.