Carbon Capture Scheme Ed Stelmach

carbon capture: this public relations facade is a pricey piece of unicorn science.

Last Friday, Jim Carter, formerly of Syncrude and more recently of the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council, spoke to the media following the release of a report which indicated the cost of the unproven technology may be higher then had been previously believed.

Carbon capture and storage will “at least double” electricity prices in Alberta and require taxpayers to contribute up to $3 billion more a year to support industry’s efforts to use the technology, says the chairman of a provincial advisory council.

Premier Ed Stelmach has used the funding of the unproven Carbon Capture and Storage technology as an attempt to convince international leaders and investors that Alberta can ‘green’ the oil sands, but a November 2008 leaked government memo written by University of Calgary researcher Dr. David Keith suggested that carbon capture would do little to reduce carbon emissions eminating from Alberta’s Energy Beach.

[l]ittle of the oil sands’ carbon dioxide can be captured because most emissions aren’t concentrated enough.

But what of the two recent provincial studies suggesting that the emissions from Alberta’s oil sands aren’t as dirty as we thought? Read Graham Thomson‘s column from this past Saturday to debunk that spin.

Researchers like Dr. Keith have suggested that the technology would best be used to capture carbon from coal burning facilities, which does very little to reduce the fast growing oil sands emissions and nothing to reduce the impact of tailings ponds and open pit mining. With our politicians ready to invest billions of taxpayers dollars in carbon capture, it remains unclear what impact it will have if this technology can be implemented:

Air capture appears to be technically feasible. But the economics are still unclear, and the politics murkiest of all. Will developing countries build enormous air-capture plants, powered by coal, to offset the emissions associated with industrialisation? Will the technology discourage efforts to improve energy efficiency, or might it be a valuable tool in the fight against climate change? At the moment, air capture is merely experimental.

This public relations facade is a pricey piece of unicorn science. With the sheer billions of taxpayers dollars that may be spent on carbon capture, I can’t help but imagine the world leader Alberta could become if even a fraction of those billions were dedicated towards smart innovation and R&D strategies in renewable energy and sustainable transportation.

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