By Justine Calma
The DOE funded projects that never came to fruition
The Biden administration wants to shove more money into projects that are supposed to capture CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities before they can escape and heat up the planet. But carbon capture technologies that the Department of Energy has already supported in the name of tackling climate change have mostly fallen flat, according to a recent report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office.
Other environmental advocates are much more skeptical of the technology and say the GAO report only shows that CCS projects are a bad investment. “We should stop deploying hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up the industries responsible for the climate crisis through fantasy technologies like CCS,” Adrien Salazar, policy director at the nonprofit Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, wrote to The Verge in an email. “Federal investments for CCS are greenwashing – they are simply fossil fuel subsidies by another name.”
CCS paired with a polluting power plant has yet to be rolled out at a commercial scale, according to the GAO report. For the most part, Salazar points out, the technology has been used by the fossil fuel industry for a process called enhanced oil recovery. Fossil fuel companies shoot captured carbon dioxide deep into the ground to push out hard-to-reach oil reserves. So critics of CCS say the technology is just a tactic to keep the oil and gas industry afloat even as the world increasingly turns to renewable energy to stave off the climate crisis. Even if the captured CO2 isn’t used for enhanced oil recovery, they worry, the technology might extend the life span of gas and coal power plants.