Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Energy firms want government money for carbon capture research

The main electricity generating companies involved in the development of carbon capture technology have asked the government to give them £1 billion to help with project costs. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing the CO2 emissions from large producers like power plants and then compressing and storing the CO2 in deep geological formations or in deep oceans. The technology to capture the CO2 exists, but the actual storage of the compressed CO2 is new and untested. This is the area energy companies want the government to invest in. Although this will eliminate around 90% of the CO2 from power stations, the process itself is energy intensive, costly, and will produce its own CO2 emissions. Whether CCS gives an overall reduction in CO2 emissions is still to be demonstrated.

BP has already abandoned its plans to build an experimental hydrogen plant using carbon capture in the North Sea due to government inaction. Other companies are threatening to do as BP has done and shelve their plans for CCS plants unless the government coughs up the money. Should the government, and by extension us the taxpayers, give money to private companies to carry out research that will benefit them and make them money? I suppose if the government doesn’t meet the costs of the project, the companies could always put their prices up to recover the costs anyway. Either way, we end up paying for the whole thing. It CCS actually helps the planet, then maybe it is just worth it.

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