Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carbon Capture Report

Now that I am back in Calgary and back to working as normal it is time to start posting here again.

I'd like to start up again by linking to this report on the science behind the carbon capture technology that Alberta is making such a large commitment to. Munk_Centre_Paper.pdf The Munk Centre for International Studies released this report by Graham Thomson of Edmonton yesterday. (As an aside thanks to Dave Cournoyer for keeping this issue prominent on his Daveberta blog!)

I think this paragraph from the conclusion sums up the importance of this report:

"The Bottom Line: Given the paucity of groundwater information in Canada and lack of
national water standards, the push to accelerate CCS could pose real risks to our
groundwater resources. In sum, the marriage of a brave new technology with a political
fix for an immediate climate problem could have negative long-term consequences for
Canadian taxpayers and water drinkers without stabilizing the climate. To move forward
on the sequestration of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide in underground saline
aquifers without strong regulations, clear liability, effective oversight, sound science and
a transparent decision-making process would be sheer folly."

It is my view that the issue of emissions, not simply those into the air but also into water and soil, are going to be one of the central issues of the next 50 years. Moderating our impact on the environment around us while maintaining or improving our productivity and standard of living is already a central challenge. The fundamental issue I have with the proposed carbon capture technology is that it proposes to attack one issue by shifting the problem into another area - without any real understanding of how moving the carbon into the ground might impact soil and especially water tables. Clean water is already a growing issue in large areas of Alberta, and one we as a polity have not dealt with in a coherent and effective manner.

The political impetus behind the carbon capture initiative is undeniable, but is not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately political action on emissions is what we need, but what we have to do is ensure that the political pressures are channeled into making good policy. At this point Carbon Capture is not that policy.


  1. Ah yes, "clear liability." Did you see what Australia's Rudd government just did for the Fossil Fuellers on its big natural gas projects? Chevron, Exxon Mobile and Shell are on the hook for problems in the first half century. After that, the Australian taxpayer is totally liable. There are to be no mid- or long-term liability for CCS mishaps and, I fear, that will become the general expectation of Big Oil in Athabasca too.

    Honest to god, it's enough to make you puke.

  2. Ignatieff's support of carbon capture as a method of making Tar Sands development environmentally sustainable raises real doubts in my mind about his environmental policies. Does he want to forge ahead with the Tar Sands projects, or does he want to clean up rivers, streams and oceans? Don't see how he can have it both ways. LMA

  3. Thank you for bringing the Australian case to my attention - I'll have to look into that! As for the question of Liberal environmental policy I think Ignatieff is in the same bind as the Conservatives. Noone wants to shut the projects down, so the alternative is to find a way of making them environmentally palatable. Sadly CCS isn't looking like it is the answer, and government needs to take the lead on an alternative, or at least give industry a reason to do so itself.