Tuesday, July 24, 2007

So, What's Holding You Back?

A plaintive op-ed piece in today's Globe & Mail about carbon capture and sequestration. The item, written by oil patch spokesman Steve Kaufman, lauds the idea of industrial emitters employing proven technology to capture carbon emissions before they escape the factories and refineries that produce them and then bury the captured carbon underground.

By leveraging the expertise that already exists here to develop the technologies, infrastructure and regulatory models necessary for the creation of a large-scale carbon capture and storage network, Canada would become a global leader in addressing climate change.

The basic technology for carbon capture and storage is already proven and safe. The practice of injecting carbon dioxide into oil fields for enhanced oil recovery has been going on for more than three decades in the United States. Deep geological carbon capture and storage projects currently operating in Norway, Algeria and Saskatchewan are each eliminating about one million tonnes of emissions annually.

Good idea, Steve, so what's holding your people up? You have to go well down into the article to find it - government subsidies.

Long-term carbon dioxide storage and monitoring will require the kind of visionary government policies and funding mechanisms required for other historic Canadian infrastructure projects such as the Canadian Pacific Railway and the trans-Canada pipeline system. In terms of its potential for transforming industrial activity, creating a national carbon capture and storage infrastructure could be no less significant.

Maybe Steve's right. Maybe government should pick up the tab for a national, carbon capture and sequestration programme. And, here's my "maybe". Maybe the government should impose a carbon tax to cover the costs of this programme. I think it's called "make the polluter pay", a principle that's been widely accepted already and should be applicable to GHG emitters. No handouts on this one. There's no way I'm willing to subsidize the Tar Sands polluters while they wallow in today's gas price windfalls.

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