Although the United Nations states that carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), equipment that enables fossil fuel producers to sequester emissions to mitigate global warming, is needed to meet emissions reduction targets, multiple climate activist groups oppose its development as they believe CCS entrenches the oil and gas industry.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that governments and other entities must employ CCS to remove greenhouse emissions from the atmosphere and store them underground in order to limit global temperature increases below 2.7°F, compared to pre-industrial levels, according to an April IPCC report.
However, climate activist nonprofits like the Sierra Club, which has previously referred to the IPCC’s work as the “gold standard” for climate science, argue that CCS is a “false” climate solution that is designed to help the fossil fuel industry.
“It comes from a fundamental hostility to traditional sources of energy and anything that comes from fossil fuels,” Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a free-market think tank, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Their focus is just to get coal plants or other facilities shut down regardless of whether carbon capture is going to be part of the energy transition or not.”
Carbon capture and storage methods are not worth the considerable investment needed to develop them as they do not remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere, according to a July Sierra Club magazine article. The group also says that it would be far more beneficial if companies or governments spent money on wind turbines, solar panels and other forms of renewable energy instead of investing in CCS.
However, the Sierra Club cited the IPCC’s April report and called on oil and gas companies to do more to mitigate the “climate crisis,” according to a press release.
The IPCC claims that CCS is an important part of reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner, according to a 2018 CCS report. Carbon capture is “cost-competitive” as it is compatible with energy infrastructure and could bring down the costs of mitigating CO2 emissions by 30% or more.
“They cherry-pick these reports for things that suit their goals and ignore the rest … they should not be against any solution that involves reducing CO2 emissions,” Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle told the DCNF. “The industry is responding to their calls to reduce CO2 but that’s not good enough for groups like the Sierra Club because they want to destroy the oil and gas industry.”
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an environmental nonprofit, considers CCS to be a “dangerous” tactic and a “scam” that is supported by the oil and gas companies because it allows them to remain profitable. The group also states that carbon capture and storage projects are put in black, brown and Native American communities that can be harmed if underground storage sites leak or rupture.
“You can have doubts about the technology but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold promise … eventually, much like what they [fossil fuel companies] did with fracking, they might crack the code and if they do, it will be a disaster for the greens because it will make them part of the climate solution,” Pyle said.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), a group that has previously discouraged fossil fuel investment, found that CCS is “critical” to sufficiently reducing carbon emissions by 2050, according to a 2021 report. In 2021, the IEA also stated that the technology is important to “net zero” goals as it can help address emissions produced by cement manufacturers and other heavy industries.
In July 2021, 198 climate organizations, including the Sierra Club and the CBD, sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling on the president to prevent the government from funding carbon capture projects. The groups stated that CCS is an “unnecessary, ineffective, exceptionally risky” scheme that helps prop up the fossil fuel industry and is at odds with the “principles of environmental justice.”
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee recently echoed such sentiments, stating that CCS “entrenches reliance on fossil fuels,” in a Dec. 9 memo detailing oil companies’ “climate disinformation” and “greenwashing” campaigns. In September, the Energy Department announced that it would spend $4.9 billion to develop carbon capture projects in hopes of meeting President Joe Biden’s goal of creating a “net zero” emissions economy by 2050, according to a department press release.
“They just keep pushing and pushing for more unrealistic and radical policy prescriptions rather than a reasonable transition,” Gessing said. “The last thing they want to see is a mechanism that allows oil and gas to remain effective sources of energy.”
The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. The IPCC referred the DCNF to its April report.
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