SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER ON CCS

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27 september 2008


In “Slouching toward Golgotha” (below), Peter Montague argues compellingly that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is an unworkable gimmick promoted by the international energy lobby to permit them, while pretending to curb CO2 emissions, to conduct business as usual. Nonetheless, plans to implement CCS on an “experimental” basis are being finalized in Europe and the U.S. Citing Al Gore, Montague justifies the increasing number of acts of non-violent civil disobedience by the young and not-so-young against coal-fired power plants with or without CCS, on the grounds that citizens have a right to attempt to prevent the destruction of a livable planet.

Courts are beginning to agree with that. In our news rubric of September 11, we reported a precedent-making legal victory for coal protesters in the UK, where six Greenpeace activists, earlier arrested on vandalism charges for their protest against the building of a new Kingsnorth coal-fired power station, were found “not guilty” by an English jury. The jury agreed with the protesters’ contention that their defiance of the law was justified in view of the danger that CO2 emissions posed to the future of the planet.

Echoing this legal victory for the protesters, the UK’s Environment Agency two weeks later advised the Labour government not to approve plans to build the very plants the Greenpeace activists had been protesting. The agency argued that merely saying the new plants could some day be fitted with CCS technology was insufficient to justify the environmental damage that would result from CO2 emissions before a proven CCS technology could be fitted to them in the period after 2030.

This is excellent news, but we would go further and argue, in the light of Montague’s insights, that even the large scale experimental “demonstration” plants the energy lobbies are pushing are a dubious matter, on the grounds that they remove the pressure on governments to implement effective measures to replace fossile fuels by renewable energy.

We offer the first paragraphs of Peter Montague’s fine article with a link to the rest. Following these paragraphs, we suggest specific ways we can all act politically, now, to oppose the creation of this CCS Pandora’s box in the European Union.


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SLOUCHING TOWARD GOLGOTHA

By Peter Montague

"I can't understand why there aren't rings of
young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from
constructing coal-fired power plants." -- Al Gore


Most of my friends want to deny it, but the evidence is compelling:
the U.S. and Europe are aggressively advancing the only real plan
they've ever had for "solving" the global warming problem. Their
plan -- their only published plan -- is to capture carbon
dioxide (CO2) gas, compress it into a liquid, and pump it a mile below
ground, hoping it will stay there forever. It will be the largest
hazardous waste disposal program ever undertaken. Sometimes the plan
is called CCS (short for "carbon capture and sequestration") but
mostly it's known by its gimmicky PR name "clean coal."

On paper, the plan seems simple enough: Bury trillions of tons of
hazardous CO2 in the ground. They tell us it will work even though its
never been tested. But what if they're wrong? What if it leaks? If
that happens, they've got no Plan B. Sorry, kids, we used up your
world.

The U.S. and Europe have painted the whole planet into a corner: by
denying or ignoring global warming science for more than 20 years and
refusing to take precautionary action, political "leaders" have
allowed the problem to grow so large that it now threatens the future
of civilization.

Read the full article in Rachel\'s Democracy & Health News #978, Sept. 25, 2008
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Like Peter Montague, we at 4C do not believe that the twenty experimental CCS-equipped power stations the G8 want to be built around the world will be able to prove that CCS can safely store trillions of tons of CO2 underground for an indeterminate future period. In fact, the enormous investment in those twenty “experiments” – 10 billion euros in the EU, 8 billion dollars in the U.S. – could be much better spent on kick-starting HVDC supergrids capable of carrying a reliable mix of wind, solar and geothermal energy from one side of a continent to the other, so as to eliminate the need for fossile fuel altogether in the next fifteen years. This is exactly what Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr. and twenty-five members of the European Parliament have argued.

Nonetheless, the European Parliament is being asked to approve a Commission Directive that would have the public fund the CCS experiments so desired by the energy lobby. Since, as Montague points out, the CCS bandwagon is already in charge in the U.S. Department of Energy, it will be easier to slow it down in Europe than in America, because the European Parliament, with a great many critical Green, Socialist and Christian Democratic MEPs, has not yet approved CCS. Furthermore, slowing CCS down in Europe will force the new U.S. Congress to think harder about continuing to approve it.

On October 7, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee is to vote on the Commission proposal for a Directive on CCS. Rejecting the Directive altogether would be counter-productive, since it is an inseparable part of a package of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most of which are steps in the right direction. However, the CCS measure can be amended so as to eliminate its most dangerous aspects.

What can we, as concerned citizens of planet earth, do to keep CCS "experiments" from ruining our future.

As our breaking news article of September 18 reported, some critical MEPs on the committee are proposing, on the one hand, to eliminate EU funding and other advantages the directive offers to the energy giants and, on the other, to set the strictest possible standards (at least 98%) for the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage. Advocates of the bill recognize that such standards, which are fully justified, may condemn the "experiments" in advance.

We can write to the parliament in favor of such amendments.

Furthermore, in line with the judgement of the UK Energy Agency, we can ask the European Parliament to stipulate that the experiments may not be used as a justification for building new coal-fired power stations.

In support of ongoing lobbying by Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs, we urge you to write to key members of the Environment Committee, indicating your strong reservations about CCS, and asking the EU to use funds from future auctions of emissions permits to finance the most rapid possible deployment of an HVDC supergrid uniting CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) units with wind parks across Europe.

Letters should be sent to Chris Davies, the English Liberal MEP who is the rapporteur on the CCS directive (he’s for it) - chrisdaviesmep@cix.co.uk - and to the four “shadow rapporteurs” from the other political groupings:


Evangelia Tzampazi, European Socialist Party (Social Democrats - Greece):
evangelia.tzampazi@europarl.europa.eu;
Kathalijne Buitenweg, European Greens (Netherlands): kathalijnemaria.buitenweg@europarl.europa.eu;
Bairbre de Brun, Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left (N.Ireland, UK)
bairbre.debrun@europarl.europa.eu;
Karsten Friedrich Hoppenstedt, European People’s Party (Christian Democrats, Germany):
kfhoppenstedt@europarl.eu.int

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Added documentation on CCS From the website of the European Environmental Bureau, a federation of 143 European environmental citizens’ organizations:

Excerpts from “EEB Position paper and amendments to proposed Carbon Capture andStorage Directive” - May 2008

EEB insists that even though carbon capture and storage (CCS) can possibly be part of climate policies it should not in any way reduce the attention and efforts on energy efficiency and renewables. These should become priority and both political attention and public funding should concentrate on these. CCS research should be paid by the power-sector and other possible users themselves; public funds should be used only for research necessary to determine the necessary safety, environmental and monitoring requirements. The actual investments in
CCS installations have to be covered by the power-sector, triggered by the price of CO2 emissions. EU Member States should phase out all subsidies to coal energy as soon as possible, to avoid CCS legitimising prolonged use of coal in the EU.

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A successful introduction of CCS systematically will make it possible to continue and even expand coal use for energy production in the EU (and worldwide). CCS is dealing with CO2 emissions only, and coal is leading to other serious environmental problems as well. The use of CCS would by itself already lead to an increase in coal use due to the “energy penalty”, estimated as up to 25% increased coal use per kWh of electricity produced for end-use. If no specific measures are taken, more coal use will increase environmental (and health) effects associated with coal mining, processing and use. The EEB is particularly
concerned about mercury, dust, SO2 (sulphur dioxide), NOX (nitrates) and CO (carbon monoxide). For mercury there is currently no legislation at all regulating mercury emissions from combustion plants. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen environmental requirements in all these areas in order to prevent a negative eco-balance. The CCSD should guarantee that the environmental impacts of increased coal are being neutralized.

The CO2 stream is most likely to contain other pollutants. These may or may not increase with increased coal use, dependant on the carbon capture technology applied. Article 12 of the draft Directive states that a CO2 stream “shall consist overwhelmingly of carbon dioxide.” What does ‘overwhelmingly’ mean in reality?

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