A low hanging fruit?

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According to IETA, carbon capture and storage – CCS for the connoisseurs - is a low-hanging fruit which could potentially be one of the main solutions to climate change. Friends of CCS met today to exchange their latest news. The European Commission is only days away from presenting to the Parliament and the Council new legislative amendments to allow for the transport and storage of carbon.

Rio Tinto and BP have together created Hydrogen Energy, a company investing in hydrogen fuelled power stations. This is how it works: coal is burned, the CO2 is extracted and stored, which leaves hydrogen as a fuel. CCS should really fall under the Clean Development Mechanism, argued Eskom, the South-African power utility.

So how low is this fruit exactly? Enel, Italy's largest power company, warned that the technology for power plants is not yet ready. And because the process of capture and storage is in itself high energy, it requires very efficient power plants. Rio Tinto confessed that none of Hydrogen Energy's plants are yet in operation. One plant requires a capital investment of about $2 billion, and finding adequate reservoirs is extremely difficult and costly. Furthermore, some plants are faced with objections from a public which has not yet bought into the idea. ECN, the Dutch energy research center, called "emotional" those reactions against CCS.

So allow me to be emotional for a moment: should we really invest time and money in an untried technology that is extremely costly, creates toxic waste, relies on yet undiscovered reservoirs for the storage of that waste, and is not scaleable due to the scarcity of these reservoirs? Is this a poor excuse for the proliferation of coal power stations?

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