With new investment comes new opportunities and investment in carbon capture can present a new opportunity that would benefit both sides of the fossil fuel debate. The debate on the use of natural gas typically pits the economic benefits against the environmental concerns, but new technology could bridge the gap.
Carbon emissions are a leading cause of climate change in the world. According to the EPA emissions from transportation (28 percent), electricity generation (27 percent), and industry (22 percent) account for 77 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This reality has brought about calls for the abandonment of fossil fuels in order to curb emissions and reduce the threat of climate change. However, those calls have been met with opposition from those who say that such a move would be detrimental to the American economy. But now, with technological advancement, and inspiration from trees, there could be a third option.
Carbon capture, or carbon sequestration, is the process of collecting carbon emissions to be stored or used in other processes in order to prevent it from polluting the atmosphere. Trees naturally sequester carbon dioxide through respiration, with carbon deposits landing in root bundles below the earth’s surface.
Mechanical carbon capture mimics this natural process. When captured and stored, carbon is pumped deep underground into deposits within the rock formations where it can be sealed off indefinitely. The emissions can also be used for industrial purposes, as well with a wide variety of applicable uses from the carbonization of beverages to replacing water used in resource extraction to maximize per-well production. Regardless of what happens to the emissions after capture, none of it will go back into the atmosphere, thus protecting both the energy industry and the environment from undue harm.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree with carbon capture’s potential to revolutionize domestic energy production, and the Department of Energy recently announced $110 million in federal funding for research on carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Carbon Capture Program is overseeing this is effort in developing capture technologies both from the source of emissions, and emissions that have already been released into the atmosphere.
While carbon capture does present industry-changing potential, there are also criticisms of the process, both environmental and economic. Though carbon capture is seen as a positive for the environment, some argue that the reuse of carbon emissions in the oil and gas industry only makes the nation more dependent on fossil fuels, which they should be phased out in favor of renewables regardless of capture abilities. On the economic front, there are concerns around the price of energy rising for consumers, as the costs for electrical generators to obtain such technology would be passed on to end users.
Pennsylvania, now a major energy state, could benefit greatly from investment in and implementation of such technology. Carbon capture could allow for natural gas to continue being a large portion of the nation’s energy mix while also lowering total emissions.