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This climate techno-fix is back in vogue – POLITICO

Last month’s Supreme Court climate ruling is reviving interest in a carbon-fighting technology that many experts have long viewed with skepticism: scrubbing heat-trapping pollution from power plants and pumping it back into the Earth.

Some experts now say the process known as carbon capture and storage — or CCS for short — could be one of the few tools the Biden administration has left to significantly cut carbon emissions from power plants after the high court curtailed EPA’s authority.

Carbon capture and storage is a way to trap planet-warming emissions from power plants and put them back underground before they hit the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming.

That sounds great. What’s the problem? 
In the U.S., the technology has a long track record of failing.

A $1 billion project in Texas that was once the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system ultimately shuttered less than four years later. As of 2021, the world’s 27 plants were capable of scrubbing and storing only a few thousands metric tons of CO2 per year — a far cry from the 1 bilion to 2 billion tons that will need to be removed every year.

Another drawback: The technology is energy-intensive, requiring almost twice as much coal to run a plant with carbon-capturing equipment installed than without it.

That could prolong fossil fuel dependence while increasing costs, which are ultimately paid by consumers, according to Emily Grubert, an energy policy professor at the University of Notre Dame who recently finished a stint in the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

“There are cheaper ways to do bulk decarbonization of the power sector,” she said. Still, she said the technology may be necessary where no alternatives exist, like for the cement industry, a major greenhouse gas emitter.

Sucking carbon from the air 
More broadly, climate scientists are now coalescing around the idea that sucking carbon directly out of the atmosphere, not just power plants, will ultimately be necessary for staving off catastrophic climate change.

Carbon dioxide removal is a burgeoning technology that is distinct, yet related, to carbon capture and storage. Some environmentalists worry that focusing on this shiny new technology could distract from the drudgery of old-fashioned emission cuts.

But Zeke Hausfather, a contributing author to the United Nations’ latest climate change assessment, said CO2 removal is about planning for a future when all the industries that can have weaned themselves off fossil fuels, but the world still needs to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

It’s a necessary complement to emissions cuts, he said — not a substitute.

“If you’re sucking carbon out of the atmosphere while you’re pumping carbon into the atmosphere at the same time, it’s kind of pointless,” said Hausfather, who is the climate research lead at online payment company Stripe Climate. “It’s pretty much lighting money on fire at that point.”

It’s Tuesday thank you for tuning into POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell.","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://twitter.com/AriannaSkibell","_id":"00000181-f646-d004-ad9d-fede20b6000a","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-f646-d004-ad9d-fede20b6000b","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to askibell@eenews.net.","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"mailto:askibell@eenews.net","_id":"00000181-f646-d004-ad9d-fede20b6000c","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-f646-d004-ad9d-fede20b6000d","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>[email protected]

Today, NASA released the first full-color images from its most advanced telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. The dazzling images capture the universe going back over 13 billion years. Read more about it here.

Home on the range
Solar capacity in Western states is booming, but the large fenced-in installations are disrupting wildlife migration patterns, writes Jason Plautz.

“It’s sort of shocking the level of impact solar facilities have compared to other generation facilities,” said Jon Holst, wildlife and senior energy adviser for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “You’re talking about complete habitat removal.” Here’s the story.

Cow power pitfalls
Government subsidies helped dairy farmers generate electricity from cow manure, but the novelty is wearing off as utilities pay next to nothing to put it on the grid, writes Marc Heller.

Absent a national commitment to make renewable energy from manure financially viable, cow power is unlikely to catch on the way its proponents hoped 20 years ago. Read more here.

This is climate change
POLITICO’s Zia Weise and Karl Mathiesen asked readers across Europe how they are experiencing climate change.

They found that Europeans are witnessing the impacts of global warming every day. And efforts to quit fossil fuel use and adopt to changing weather is altering the ways people work and the fabric of their cities. Read more here.

Heat factor: Most cities are unprepared to handle an increase in temperatures.

Slow tide: Unsure about which fuels will be allowed in the long term to cut greenhouse gas emissions, many shipping firms are sticking with older fleets, which may soon have to start sailing slower to comply with new regulations.

Today in the POLITICO Energy podcast: Ben Lefebvre explains why the Biden administration is considering approving a controversial oil project in Alaska.

The science, policy and politics driving the energy transition can feel miles away. But we’re all affected on an individual and communal level — from hotter days and higher gas prices to home insurance rates and food supply.

Want to know more? Send me your questions and I’ll get you answers.

A showcase of some of our best subscriber content.

Searing temperatures pushed Texas’ power grid","_id":"00000181-f3ec-d06c-afbb-f7fd3a7a0000","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>pushed Texas’ power grid to the brink, demonstrating the challenges that face an evolving electricity sector as the world warms.

New York City’s largest fossil power","_id":"00000181-f3ee-dc74-abc3-f7efcf070000","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>largest fossil power plant is mapping out a transition to renewable energy.

More than one in five","_id":"00000181-f45f-d914-a1af-fc5fe9270000","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>than one in five of San Francisco’s fast electric vehicle chargers don’t work, according to new research.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.

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