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Taking Carbon Capture to the Next Level

July 11, 2017

Sounds like a fantasy? The FUTURE Act (Furthering carbon capture, Utilization, Technology, Underground storage, and Reduced Emissions), does just that and would position the US to bring carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology to the next level.

Carbon capture and storage is a critical-path technology for addressing climate change. Nearly 2/3rds of the world’s emissions come from power plant and industrial smokestacks. And fossil fuels with CCS could become an important source for developing zero carbon fuels (like hydrogen) for the transportation sector. No single technology will take us to a zero carbon-emitting world. But trying to limit global warming without CCS would be taking on the fight with at least one hand tied behind our back.

The bill would extend the existing tax credit for carbon capture and storage – and make the credit far more effective.  The current incentive has done almost nothing to help move carbon capture forward, because of its flawed design. Its credit level has been too low to be an effective incentive for new projects and its cap on credits mean that developers can’t count on them being available once in operation. The new bill would raise the credit to a level and change the credit cap to a time-limit. These changes would help drive more projects like NRG’s successful Petra Nova CCUS project, as well create a pull for new CCUS technologies to come to market. In other words, it will drive both learning-by-doing and innovation, which are important steps in reducing technology costs.

CCUS technology is also a path forward for fossil energy in a carbon-constrained world. And it can create a new source of cash when the carbon is turned into a commodity, such as with enhanced oil recovery or niche products such as specialty chemicals. This is why major coal, oil, and power companies, as well as labor unions, have joined environmental groups in supporting this legislation.

That broad base of support has turned into broad, bi-partisan support in Congress. The bill is being introduced by one-fourth of the Senate and led by the team of Heitkamp – Whitehouse – Kaine for Democrats and Capito – Barrasso – Graham for Republicans. Moreover, DOE Secretary Rick Perry has touted CCUS projects in his native Texas, as an example of the future of coal.

Major public and private interests are aligned to make progress on energy innovation based on common ground. Congress should close the deal and pass this bill.

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