What about Carbon Capture?

Carbon sequestration can’t do it. It is unrealistic to expect that humanity will be able to develop enough carbon sequestration in time to hit our climate targets. This emphasises the need to electrify and decarbonise faster.

Explained in more detail

When you burn a hydrocarbon, it becomes three times bigger as a molecule, because you add two oxygen atoms to each carbon atom. It also becomes about 5000 times larger because it becomes a gas (CO 2 ), where in most cases it started as a liquid or a solid. The fossil-fuel industry is invested in the idea that you can keep burning their product, provided you capture that CO 2 and bury it. To capture the CO 2 requires expensive filtration equipment that, even if you exclude the cost of capital, requires a great deal of energy to operate. So the idea amounts to using more energy to capture the CO 2 , then yet more energy to compress the CO 2 , then yet more energy again to transport that CO 2 to somewhere the geological formations allow you to hide it for hundreds or thousands of years while you hope it turns into a rock. Today we pull roughly 10 billion tonnes of fossil fuel out of the ground each year. It becomes 30 billion tonnes of CO 2 . The fossil-fuel industry wants you to believe they can keep emitting a whole bunch more because we’ll be able to sequester it, but the world is already counting on a physically unrealistic amount of sequestering to compensate for ‘overshoot’ – the fact that we’ll go past our 1.5°C target and have to use negative emissions. In a nutshell, carbon sequestration can only make fossil fuels more expensive, which will make them even less competitive with cheaper renewables. We can’t do enough carbon sequestration to maintain even a fraction of the existing fossil-fuel industry. It is unlikely the world will be able to do enough carbon sequestration just to offset our overshoot, let alone to allow for continued offsetting of fossil fuels. Electrification will be cheaper anyway, and will reduce the amount of energy we need by half while improving our quality of life.

Back to FAQ