Skip Navigation Links.

Search for publications:

Limit search to the fields

ECN publication
The case for carbon capture and storage
Zwaan, B.C.C. van der; Stephens, J.C.
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Policy Studies 1-9-2005
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-RX--05-198 Article (scientific)
Number of pages:

Published in: Issues in Science and Technology, Fall 2005, pp. 69-76 (National Academy of Science), , , Vol., p.-.


Human activity spills about 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere every year, building up the levels of greenhouse gases that bring us ever closer to dangerous interference with Earth?s climate system. The world?s forests take up about 2 or 3 billion tons of that output annually, and the ocean absorbs 7 billion tons. Experts estimate that another 5 to 10 billion tons of this greenhouse gas?as much as 40% of human-made CO2?could be removed from the atmosphere and tucked safely away.

Advancing the technologies needed to capture and store CO2 is a sensible strategy. In addition to increasing renewable energy and promoting energy efficiency and conservation, the strategy of advancing CO2 capture and storage (CCS) can be easily understood by all Americans who acknowledge that even though fossil fuels will be needed for a long time to come, the U.S. government at some point must confront the climate change problem by setting limits on CO2 emissions.

Capturing and storing CO2 is a cost-competitive and safe way to achieve large-scale reductions in emissions. CCS technology offers a unique opportunity to reconcile limits on CO2 emissions with society?s fossil fuel?dominated energy infrastructure. In order to continue using the United States? vast domestic coal resources in a world where CO2 must be constrained, the country will need to rely on technology that can seize CO2 generated from coal-fired power plants and store it in geologic formations underground. However, the integration and scaling up of existing technologies to capture, transport, and store CO2 emitted from a full-scale power plant have not yet been demonstrated. The technical feasibility of integrating a complete CCS system with a commercial-scale power plant is not in doubt, but it is necessary to build up experience by advancing early deployment.

In addition to the environmental benefits, more aggressive support of CCS technology is critical to maintaining U.S. leadership and competitiveness in both CCS and global energy-technology markets. The United States has played a leading role in nearly all R&D related to the use of fossil fuels and has always had particular expertise in coal-based power-production technologies. Yet despite the great potential of CCS, the U.S. government is not investing in it aggressively. The current administration emphasizes the importance of advanced technologies, including CCS, in addressing climate change, but is not effectively promoting its demonstration and deployment. U.S. industry is already beginning to lose ground, because the handful of existing large-scale CCS projects are not in the United States.

The private sector has shown substantial interest in CCS and has begun investing in development and demonstration projects. But progress will be slow without government-created incentives. The challenge for the government is to harness the private sector?s interest by developing policies that reward investment in and early deployment of CCS systems.

More Information:

Back to List