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Transitioning Past Carbon Capture

Big Picture


Excessive carbon emissions remain a primary contributor to climate change. While carbon capture serves as a useful solution for major emitters in the present, it is not sustainable enough to secure our future. America must phase carbon capture out of its facilities should it hope to effectively implement its long-term climate policies.


Graphic From: Wang, Nan. "What Went Wrong? Learning from Three Decades of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Pilot and Demonstration Projects." Cell Press, SSRN, 28 Oct. 2020, ssrn.com/abstract=3720763. This figure illustrates the capacity gap of carbon capture and sequestration when placed next to the global 2℃ target. It reveals that carbon capture is not currently doing enough to aid in meeting our quickly emergent goals.


Operative Definitions


  1. Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration (CCS): The process of capturing carbon dioxide and transporting it to places where it can be stored deep underground, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

  2. Greenhouse Gas (GHG): Gasses that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere; this includes carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. 

  3. Stationary Sources: Major GHG emitters, such as factories, oil refineries, chemical plants and power plants.

  4. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): An independent federal agency that deals in matters regarding the protection of the environment.

  5. Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP): An EPA program that collects reports on GHG and other important data from emitters, fuel and gas suppliers, and CO2 injection sites. 

  6. Energy Star Program: An EPA program that provides its partners with technical information, management tools, and productive practices for making energy-efficient choices.


Important Facts and Statistics


  1. Currently, 8,000 facilities are required to report their GHG emissions to the EPA every year.

  2. The United States is one of two developed countries that do not charge its domestic facilities a tax on carbon.


Four-Point Plan


(1) Change the EPA’s criteria for the types of facilities required to report their GHG emissions to the GHGRP. 

Increase the number of facilities that are required to provide GHG emission reports to the EPA by changing the emission reporting requirement from 25,000 metric tons per year or more to 20,000 metric tons per year or more. This will increase awareness of GHG emissions and motivation to lower them across a greater number of companies since more facilities will be required to adhere to the GHGRP. 


(2) Decrease the legal carbon dioxide emission limit for stationary sources. 

Decrease the legal carbon dioxide emission limit for stationary sources by 300 lbs of  CO2/MWh (carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt) by 2027. This should be applied to all types of stationary facilities and the different emission limits that are currently being followed.


(3) Apply a federal carbon tax. 

Set a federal carbon tax of $25 per ton of CO2 after five years. (This time frame will be considered a “peace period” for industries to adjust to their new emission limits.) Implementing this will increase the rate at which emissions are lowered across the country by providing a financial deterrent. 


(4) Mandate the implementation of the Energy Star Program in all reporting facilities. 

Every facility sending reports to the GHGRP must partner with the Energy Star Program. This comes at no cost to a facility. The EPA takes U.S. policies into account when supplying facilities with means of lowering emissions, making their advice very effective. Facilities will be provided with the proper tools and strategies to help them appropriately follow emission limits and reduce their emissions without the use of carbon capture.


Why this Initiative is Important


Carbon capture is an amazing process. It is a convenient way for major emitters to reduce their carbon footprint without requiring them to make too many changes to their own production methods. It has the potential to be an effective method for addressing climate change. That being said, as beneficial as it could eventually be for the environment, the world does not have the luxury of time, nor can it afford much more trial and error, when it comes to the rapidly increasing, detrimental effects of climate change. Carbon capture is simply not effectuating enough change to be a realistic option for tackling global warming. If this initiative were to be implemented, major emitters would be given the time and support necessary to make serious changes in their processes. This initiative pushes facilities away from carbon capture technology and towards federal regulations that are built to last.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Carbon Pricing around the World." Citizens' Climate Lobby, citizensclimatelobby.org/laser-talks/carbon-prices-around-world/. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

"GHG Reduction Programs and Strategies." EPA, www.epa.gov/climateleadership/ghg-reduction-programs-strategies. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

"Greenhouse Gasses Reporting Program Implementation." EPA, Nov. 2013, www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2014-09/documents/ghgrp-overview-factsheet.pdf. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

"Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)." EPA, www.epa.gov/ghgreporting. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.


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