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VIEW: ‘Carbon-capture projects are madness’, says Jeffrey Simpson

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson writes about the funds committed by the Canadian and Alberta governments over the past two weeks for the TransAlta Corp. carbon-capture and storage project and the Shell carbon storage project.

“The two announcements – both for coal-fired facilities, the oil sands therefore remaining untouched – mean about $1.6-billion in taxpayer money in the years ahead, or about $220 for a family of four.”

1- “We get, at best, a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions of 2.1 million tonnes. ‘At best’ because the announcements were tempered with hedging words such as ‘could’ achieve and ‘up to one million tonnes.’ Therefore, something less than 2.1 million tonnes might actually be captured.”

2- $1.6-billion spent to bury 2.1 million tonnes of carbon means a cost of about $761 per tonne. By contrast, “Alberta has a piddling carbon tax on emissions over a certain level that companies can avoid by paying $15 a tonne into a technology fund.”

3- “Canada emits about 720 million tonnes of CO2. Mr. Harper has pledged by 2020 to lower that amount by 20 per cent, or about 144 million tones. The two carbon-capture projects just announced, by lowering emissions 2.1 million tonnes, will therefore achieve about 1.4 per cent of the reductions the Harper government has pledged…”

4- “At this rate, achieving the 20-per-cent reduction would cost almost $110-billion between now and 2020.”

5- Alberta “is responsible for about 30 per cent of the country’s emissions. Taking 2.1 million tonnes from Alberta’s emissions will represent about 1 per cent of the province’s total emissions.”

6- “There remains about $800-million in (Alberta”s CCS) fund, but if future projects are like the two just announced, once the entire $2-billion is spent, Alberta might have lowered its emissions by maybe 2 per cent.”

Simpson concludes, this is “most definitely not a substitute for a serious climate-change policy…”

“The Harper government’s 20-per-cent reduction target will not be met; indeed, it is increasingly being seen as a joke.”

His column is at http://theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/on-a-cost-basis-carbon-capture-projects-are-madness/article1329825/?.

An Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council report said in July that the federal and Alberta governments may have to invest $1 billion to $3 billion per year after 2015 to turn capturing carbon into a viable commercial technology.

The report also said that energy prices will rise as consumers shoulder “a large share of the burden” of this cost.

That is noted in a campaign blog at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=1572.