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Carbon 'capture': Hobson's choice

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Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A certain cohort of the eco-wacko crowd actually supporting the EPA's proposed coal industry-killing restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions touts a system known as “carbon capture and storage (or sequestration)” as the answer. But where they get that idea is a mystery, considering how financially and technically unfeasible that process actually is.

The idea behind carbon capture is that carbon emissions can be captured, then pumped deep into the Earth for storage. Better there than in the air, where, supposedly, they are responsible for “climate change,” they argue.

That's the theory, at least. But attempts at practical application have been a bust. It's so expensive that the Europeans can't find anybody to finance the kind of large-scale projects that would be necessary. And the same goes for the United States, which has earmarked billions for research and demonstration projects but, as The Washington Post's Brad Plumer noted last summer, “there's little to show for it.”

Not only would such a system increase the cost of a new coal-fired plant by about 75 percent, Mr. Plumer notes, there are serious safety questions about the effects of pumping liquefied carbon deep into the Earth. Earthquakes are just one of those concerns, which, some researchers say, make carbon capture and storage pretty much folly.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the new emissions standards cannot be met without carbon capture and storage. It's the kind of Hobson's choice that confirms the Obama administration's real intent — to kill coal as an electricity-generating fuel once and for all.

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