Carbon price needed to accelerate CCS development, federal panel says

Large-scale carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is viable, but widespread adoption will require a price on carbon, a federal inter-agency panel said today.

The panel, a task force set up in February by President Obama to make recommendations about the barriers to widespread, cost-effective CCS deployment within 10 years, today sent its final recommendations to the president.

"These recommendations mark an important step forward in combating climate change and strengthening our economy through green jobs -- top priorities for this administration," said U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a statement. "By encouraging efforts to develop clean coal technology we will obtain new tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, and make our nation more competitive in the global race for clean energy technology."

The task force, composed of representatives from 14 federal agencies, says there are no insurmountable hurdles -- technical, institutional, legal or otherwise -- to the deployment of the technology. But widespread deployment would be best achieved with a carbon price, the panel says.

"Administration analyses of proposed climate change legislation suggest that CCS technologies will not be widely deployed in the next two decades absent financial incentives that supplement projected carbon prices," the panel's report says.


But with additional federal coordination, the task force believes the nation can achieve the president's goal of setting up five to 10 commercial-scale demonstration projects by 2016. The panel recommends creating a standing federal agency roundtable and expert committee to help achieve that goal. And it recommends setting up a joint Energy Department-EPA effort to track regulatory progress for early commercial projects.

A more focused engagement with communities that are candidates for CCS projects would also be beneficial, the report says. Just yesterday, an Illinois town pulled out of a beleaguered clean coal project that has struggled for years to get up and running (E&ENews PM, Aug. 11).

Long-term liability could be a barrier to CCS deployment, the panel concedes. And it recommends exploring further four approaches that could alleviate the problem. The report says EPA, DOE and the Justice Department will continue efforts to improve long-term liability frameworks and will make further recommendations on that front late next year.

Still, the panel remains optimistic that the United States can meet its CCS goals.

"A diversified energy portfolio, which includes coal, is important for a strong 21st-century American economy," said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "These recommendations move us toward bringing safe and deployable CCS technologies to the marketplace to help us meet the goal of reducing harmful carbon emissions while continuing to use this energy source."

Click here to read the task force's recommendations.

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