Or, more precisely:
Energy Northwest officials said they could not produce a required plan for capturing carbon emissions from the proposed [coal] plant in the foreseeable future.
Right. Carbon capture and sequestration doesn’t exist for coal plants, not in any functional form.
What’s more, even energy companies don’t seem to believe CCS will be feasible anytime soon. Which is why I worry about climate policies that would devote public resources to CCS, a dubious and potentially very expensive endeavor. And it’s why I worry even more about climate policies that would actually rely on CCS to achieve emissions reductions.
Until someone figures out how to make CCS viable—and I sincerely hope someone does figure this out—laws like Washington’s are an excellent idea:
A 2007 Washington law sets strict limits on carbon emissions from coal plants and requires that utilities show how any future coal plant would capture or “sequester” carbon emissions by permanently injecting them deep underground, thus preventing them from entering the atmosphere.
Energy Northwest’s decision to withdraw its application “was simply a reflection of the fact that the law passed by the state Legislature made it financially and probably legally impossible for us to move forward with the gasification plant,” said Energy Northwest spokeswoman Rochelle Olson. “Carbon sequestration is really still in the research and development stages, and as a public agency we are prohibited from accepting open-ended risk.”
Even better, of course, would be a firm cap on total carbon emissions. Under a cap, if CCS turns out to be a cost-effective technology, then energy companies will move in that direction. If it turns out that there are cheaper ways to reduce emissions—conservation, efficiency, renewables, whatever—then emitters will move toward these other strategies. Once we have a legal carbon cap in place, we can let the market sort it out.