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  • Writer's picturePGCC


In April 2024 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a new rule that requires coal power plants to capture at least 90% of the plant’s CO2 emissions.  The final rule is more harsh than the EPA’s initial proposal, and several states are already challenging the new rule, arguing it will cause closure of plants, skyrocketing electricity rates, and destabilization of the grid.  The unfolding litigation will be similar to the landmark case of West Virginia vs. EPA where the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled that the EPA does not possess the authority it claimed, to regulate carbon dioxide emissions related to climate change.


But apart from unconstitutionality, apart from senseless destruction of the reliable components of our electrical grid (meaning the parts that work reliably regardless of whether wind is blowing or sun is shining), there is something missing from the carbon capture discussion.  Journalists write about carbon capture as though it is a painless panacea—a magical way to have our cake and eat it too.


But carbon capture doesn’t happen by magic—it happens by ENERGY.  It requires energy to make the roads, cement foundations, buildings, scrubbers, pipes, pumps, drill steel, and other components used in carbon capture and storage.  And most important, it requires energy to constantly run all that equipment.


Anyone see the problem here?


Let’s start with the carbon capture equipment.  The steel and cement require coal.  In fact, annually, steel and concrete production consume 1.2 billion and 500 million tons of coal, respectively.  Add the steel and concrete necessary for the carbon capture equipment, and the mining and burning of coal increases.


But the real doozy is the ongoing energy used to power the carbon capture equipment.  Researchers from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have already given us performance estimates for retrofitting an existing coal power plant with Shell’s CANSOLV CO2 capture system.  Before retrofit the coal power plant had a net output of 650 megawatts.  After retrofit power was reduced 24% to 495 megawatts.


90% of the Carbon is removed and tamped away underground.  But so is 24% of the electricity output.  And that 24% is made up for…how?


It’s OK.  You can say it.  By building more power plants.  By consuming more coal for more steel and cement to build the new plants.  By consuming more energy to run the new power plants.


Meantime, all of the new building and energizing is devoted to capturing what the bureaucrats (not our congress) has deemed a dangerous product: CO2.  The same “dangerous” product that plants need to grow.


Just where in this process did we lose our minds?

It requires energy and resources to make and operate equipment like this.

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