On May 11, President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, primarily by requiring plants to capture emissions from their smokestacks.
Limiting greenhouse emissions from power generation is a good thing. Unfortunately, relying on “capturing emissions” to do it is a singularly bad idea.
Biden’s plan is a reference to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which would theoretically allow power plants to “capture” carbon emissions before they’re released and “sequester” them away underground. But the technology has major problems that the proposed regulations ignore.
Even proponents of the technology agree that it’s inordinately expensive. Much cheaper alternatives exist to generate electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. Wind and solar power cost about the same or less than natural gas power, and without the added capital and operating costs of adding a carbon-scrubbing unit.
For all its cost, carbon capture isn’t even proven to work — it hasn’t been implemented at scale in the electric power generation sector anywhere in the world. The only sizable power plant in the world that uses CCS technology, the Boundary Dam power plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, is an expensive failure.