New Greenpeace report exposes CCS as a dangerous distraction

Feature story - May 5, 2008
Greenpeace International has released a new report, entitled “False Hope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save the Climate,” which proves once and for all that “clean coal” is nothing more than a slogan aimed at greenwashing the image of an irremediably dirty energy source.

The premise of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is that carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants can be captured before it enters the atmosphere and then stored underground in geological formations. The coal industry has been promoting the idea of "clean coal" through the usage of CCS technology as a solution for global warming despite the fact that its efficacy has yet to be proven on a large scale and even best-case scenarios don't have CCS being in place for at least a couple decades.

Greenpeace's new report systematically debunks all of the coal industry's claims about CCS, demonstrating that we have no time to waste on this dubious technology if we are to avert the most drastic effects of global warming.

"Carbon capture and storage is a scam. It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream," said the report's author, Emily Rochon, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace International. "Governments and businesses need to reduce their emissions-not search for excuses to keep burning coal."

The report exposes CCS technology's woeful inadequacy on numerous points. CCS wastes energy, for one thing, as it uses between 10 and 40% of the plant's power output just to function. It is also expensive, and could possibly double the cost of constructing a coal-fired power plant, which in turn could lead to the raising of electricity costs for consumers. And despite its exorbitant cost, there is actually no guarantee that storing carbon underground is totally safe or effective - even a very low leakage rate could completely undermine the benefits of CCS. But most importantly, CCS simply can't deliver on a large scale until 2030, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, whereas the scientific consensus about climate change holds that our greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 if we're to avoid the worst effects of man-made global warming.

"There is an immediate window for the U.S. to address the most urgent effects of global warming, and CCS is a dangerous distraction from real solutions," said Kate Smolski, legislative coordinator for Greenpeace USA.

The release of this report is especially timely, as the U.S. Congress will soon debate global warming legislation that could increase give-a-ways to the coal industry and waste taxpayer dollars on this unproven and potentially dangerous technology. It is vitally important that we do not let ourselves be duped by this global warming distraction: Every dollar spent on CCS technology is a dollar not available for clean and proven technologies such as wind and solar.

Download the "False Hope" report

Download the "False Hope" Executive summary