On the downside, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that environmentalist Tim Flannery, formerly a booster of carbon capture and sequestration, has changed his mind about the prospects for CCS. Flannery is on the board of Siemens and , after meeting with some of their technical people in Germany last week, has concluded that while CCS is technically possible, it is likely not economically feasible. However, in the same article, the head of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute maintains his belief that the current barriers to CCS are not insurmountable. I am still on the side of CCS, but I am open to being convinced that it will not be a successful strategy. I think a key may be turning the carbon into a commercial product and utilizing, not simply storing it. Commercial applications include pumping carbon into mature oil wells to enhance production, “carbon farming” in which farmers generate carbon credits by storing carbon in their fields, or (down the road) supercompressing carbon to create industrial grade diamonds.
Flannery is correct that, using current technologies, CCS is too expensive and inefficient (a power plant implementing CCS would have to dedicate up to 30% of its power output to capturing its own carbon), but it is the key to a secure and clean energy future. On the positive side – at roughly the same time Flannery was expressing his doubts about CCS – researchers at Berkeley were working on a new type of material that can efficiently – and cost effectively – scrub carbon from power plant outputs. They hope to use automated processes to enable their break through in 3 years or less. As Instapundit would say: “Faster, please!”