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Carbon Capture: The Controversial Tech at the Crossroads of Climate Action

by Anna

The ongoing United Nations climate summit in Dubai is amplifying the debate over the future of fossil fuels, with nations, activists, and experts discussing the critical role of carbon capture and carbon removal technologies in achieving net-zero emissions. As energy companies and oil-rich nations plan to continue drilling, skeptics caution against the overselling of these technologies to maintain the status quo.

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What is Carbon Capture?

Carbon capture involves separating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial facilities, such as power plants or ethanol plants, and transporting the captured CO2 to be permanently stored underground. It is considered a mitigation technology to prevent increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The captured carbon is then transported for long-term storage underground through pipelines or vehicles.

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Another aspect is carbon removal, aimed at removing CO2 already in the atmosphere. This can involve technologies that capture CO2 directly from the air, contributing to the reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels.

Current Status and Challenges:

While carbon capture and storage technologies are proven to work, they are expensive and still in the early stages of deployment. There are approximately 40 large-scale carbon capture projects globally, capturing only a fraction of global emissions. The technology’s expansion is slower than expected, facing challenges such as opposition to CO2 pipelines and difficulties obtaining permits.

Who Supports Carbon Capture?

Major energy companies, including those in the oil and gas industry, consider carbon capture a key technology for achieving cleaner energy use. The Biden administration also advocates for increased investment in carbon capture and removal, offering tax benefits and billions in funding for projects. However, some environmentalists argue that fossil fuel companies are using carbon capture to delay the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Critics and Concerns:

Opponents express concerns about the fossil fuel industry’s role, arguing that it may use carbon capture to distract from the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. Some projects have not met their carbon removal targets, and there are worries that carbon capture may prolong the life of polluting plants. Critics highlight the injection of captured carbon into the ground for enhanced oil recovery, emphasizing the importance of government policies to force reduced fossil fuel use.

As discussions unfold at the climate summit, the future of carbon capture remains controversial, with a need for careful consideration of its role in conjunction with broader climate action strategies.

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