“Clean Coal” Pumps up “Green Oil”
by Kyle Ash
Greenpeace USA just released "Carbon Capture Scam (CCS): How a False Climate Solution Bolsters Big Oil," a report explaining why support for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) must stop. Cynics of the potential of renewable energy have advocated for CCS as a way to keep coal plants running without harming the climate, by capturing the carbon pollution and storing it underground forever. To the contrary, carbon capture is just replacing smokestacks with a Rube Goldberg machine that's even worse for the climate. The CO2 from burning coal ultimately still gets into the atmosphere, but expensive, subsidized equipment first takes the CO2 on a long, inefficient detour. CCS Is Part of the 'All of the Above' Strategy to Push Fossil Fuels: Tragically, the CO2 collected from coal plants will become a catalyst for even more CO2 pollution. Captured CO2 will be piped directly to oil rigs. The oil rigs pump the CO2 into reservoirs so the oil expands and is forced up the well. The main driver behind carbon capture development is maintaining our dependence on fossil fuels. EPA's proposed carbon rule requires that new coal plants capture CO2, and emphasizes the CO2 be used to augment oil extraction. Every major power plant CCS project in the United States intends to sell the scrubbed CO2 to the oil extraction industry. Some claim that oil produced with CO2 injection is going to get produced somewhere else anyway, and therefore would actually be 'green' oil because it keeps CO2 from a coal plant from entering the atmosphere. Is this really clean coal for green oil? It sounds confusing because it is nonsense for many reasons, one being that injected CO2 comes back up the well with the oil. However, this reflects the Obama Administration view that fossil fuel supply has no bearing whatsoever on fossil fuel use. The Administration's 'All of the Above' energy strategy is steeped in this false logic. The Obama administration effectively argues that no fossil fuel supply project in the United States ever has any impact on the climate. This either manic or myopic mindset is communicated by every federal agency making decisions about fossil fuel supply projects. For example:
- The US State Department environmental impact analysis in 2013 (which may be rejected) concluded the KXL pipeline won't contribute additional carbon pollution - because it means other oil transport methods won't be used.
- The Bureau of Land Management auctions off taxpayer-owned coal and discounts any CO2 created by burning that coal - because it means coal in some other part of the world won't get mined.
- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management claims there is no additional CO2 from burning oil extracted in the Arctic - because Arctic oil will simply displace oil on the international market.
- EPA's proposed carbon rule for future power sources promotes expanding oil production and regards emissions from burning that additional oil as irrelevant.