08/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Carbon Capture a Pipe Dream

The dirty truth about carbon capture: it's very expensive and it's a long way off. Speaking at the World Bank in Sydney, Mark Diesendorf of the Univeristy of New South Wales points to the Bush Administration's shuttering of the FutureGen project as an example of the escalating costs associated with this largely unproven technology.

Note that in June, Energy Secretary Steven Chu revived the FutureGen project with $1 billion and a directive that it come up with realistic cost estimates. Diesendorf also questions the wisdom of his country spending some $2 billion (AUS) on carbon capture, when the first commercial scale plants wouldn't be online until at least 2020.

There's much to love about carbon capture, in theory. (Michael Pollan is a fan.) But what most people love about carbon capture is also what's wrong with it. Carbon capture continues our dependence on coal-fired power plants, and does little to change the status quo. In other words, carbon capture does nothing to get us off the coal standard.

Furthermore, to echo a point made by Diesendorf, investing in carbon capture takes money away from the development of renewables like wind and solar, and from the development of energy efficiencies like CFLs and electric cars.

Given the global economic crisis, shouldn't we be investing in proven technologies first?

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