Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Volokh Correction #27: open air carbon capture not easier than capture at power plants

Jonathan Adler cites a Robert Bryce article criticizing carbon capture from power plants as too expensive and then thinks it supports open-air carbon capture because open air capture reduces the need to "pipe carbon great distances." That's a poor argument on a bunch of levels, starting with the likelihood that Bryce himself would disagree.

Bryce talks mainly the cost of reducing power plant output to capture carbon and the large volume of carbon to be sequestered, with piping given a secondary billing. If we're going to sequester under the ocean (or misguidedly, into the ocean as Roger Pielke Jr appears to like), then piping would still be necessary for open-air capture. The volume problem for open air capture is the same as at the power plant, and the energy cost should be a lot higher to remove CO2 when is much less than 1% of the atmosphere compared to power plant exhaust which I think is in the range of 30-60%.

I don't have much in the way of numbers to critique Bryce and Adler, but they have even less.

In general, I was unimpressed with Bryce's article - coal is cheap, and adding substantially to its price might still be in the range of feasibility. Adler's thought that the argument supports open-air capture (an option I won't rule out, btw) is even less impressive.

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