Is Carbon Sequestration Part of the Answer or An Excuse to Keep Producing CO2?
The American Petroleum Institute (API) -- the most influential fossil fuel lobbying group -- held a press conference last Wednesday to review its annual State of American Energy report. Key points included: the US's maintained position as a net exporter for oil and gas despite the pandemic; increased diversity and inclusion of the industry's workforce; and the industry's "spirit of innovation when it comes to climate change.
API: State of American Energy 2022, January 12, 2022.
Why this matters
The API's talking points around innovation as it relates to climate were heavily focused on "carbon capture technology as a way to reduce their own emissions," as Grist reports. And while such technologies will help prevent catastrophic temperature rise, their use still leaves room for new "opportunities for fossil fuel extraction" according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. One cited carbon capture sequestration (CCS) project -- deemed "successful" -- uses the CO2 from a natural gas plant to drill for oil. And so, critics of CCS believe it's yet another way Big Oil is greenwashing the industry while keeping the public in the dark -- that without significant changes to the oil and gas industry, the effects of climate change will continue to exacerbate climate change.
Carbon sequestration is essentially the process of halting carbon emissions from exiting smokestacks and storing these emissions, potentially using them for another purpose. While this innovation may sound exciting, it still has quite a few drawbacks. The Department of Energy created a plan expecting nine coal plants to be outfitted with CO2 scrubbing devices, a key component of the carbon sequestration process. However, out of the $684 million spent on the project, only one plant was actually equipped. Even within this plant, Molly Taft states "The carbon dioxide pulled from the plant's emissions was also used to drill for oil, essentially negating the climate benefits." The most effective way to reduce emissions is to tackle the problem at the source, reducing CO2 emissions from Big Oil.