Saturday, July 7, 2012

David Suzuki Urges Opposition to CCS

Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki wrote a commentary last week in which he called for "renewable energy, not carbon capture and storage."  Suzuki bases his opposition to CCS on familiar grounds including high cost, induced seismicity, and problematic liability.  He concludes that "We need to consider many solutions to deal with waste, pollution, and global warming, but not risky and expensive schemes that serve only to enable our continued addiction to fossil fuels.  Our best bet is to reduce waste and emissions.  And rather than dumping money into schemes like carbon capture and storage, we should invest in renewable energy."

However, in regard to the objections raised by Suzuki, on closer examination there is less than meets the eye.  Theoretical and empirical evidence of a link between CCS and induced seismicity is weak to nonexistent (see Geologic Storage and Earthquakes?, 6/23).  Costs are high indeed, but innovative measures such as power plant CO2 performance standards offer ways around this obstacle (see Calls Intensify for More Global Action on CCS, 5/16).  And recent research suggests that the liability issue is much less troublesome than previously thought (see New Study Quantifies Risks from CCS, 6/27).

The world economy is based on investments in fossil fuel consumption.  Past investments represent sunk costs that will not simply be abandoned as stranded assets.  Future investments are being planned now, and must take into account a near-zero cost of carbon given a moribund EU ETS, the uninspiring outcomes of Durban and Rio+20, etc.  Furthermore, CCS transport and storage technologies will likely prove critical to several promising CDR approaches such as DAC and BECCS.  Given the economic and ecological realities we face, a wholesale switch to renewables now is neither wise nor possible.  CCS must be part of the mix, and to dismiss it out of hand qualifies as both risky and short-sighted.

1 comment:

  1. DS is right that CCS is stupid because its too expensive. But that makes his argument stupid, because he has wrapped it up in other emotive words that will put people off, when he could just have stuck to sense.