Japan’s recent interest in Carbon Sequestration and Storage has sparked a debate on the pros and cons of this controversial technology.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is being tested at the Mikawa power station, located near the coast of Japan’s southern Fukuoka prefecture.
Toshiba Corp. (PINK:TOSBF)has chosen it as a pilot site for a project it sees as a necessarycomplement to renewable energies such as wind and solar in the battleto cut industrial emissions blamed for global warming.
The logic is simple, world wide coal usage is expected to rise in coming decades–especially in China and India.
Even President Obama has conceded that much of America’s energy willbe derived from coal in the coming years. There’s no getting around it,though the debate may not be one of idealism vs. realism, but rather evidence of Senate politics requiring heavy concessions.
While solar and wind are growing in their capacity and graduallydiminishing in costs, they do not yet have the capability of reducingcarbon emissions on a grand scale. By this I mean, they are not capableof replacing all of America’s energy needs as of yet, regardless oftheir zero-emissions capabilities.
So, for many CSS is a viable option. "CCS will be the onlytechnology to reduce emissions on a grand scale," said Shigeo Murai,who heads a study group on storing carbon dioxide, or CO2, at Japan’s Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth. "At the same time it won’t be able to reduce overall emissions on its own. It will need help from solar and wind power."
But there are concerns: environmentalists warn that the CO2 couldseep out, and some geologists worry that it could erupt to the surfaceor even trigger minor earthquakes–not good news for Japan, which isone of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Greenpeacelabels CSS as a "dangerous gamble" in a recent report, warning thatlarge-scale projects "pose significant risks including negative healtheffects and damage to ecosystems (and) groundwater contamination."
But perhaps one of the most legitimate concerns is how thistechnology could result in a further dependence on fossil fuels.Toshiba experts say that in the so-called Enhanced Oil Recovery system,CO2 would be injected into semi-depleted oil fields and help releaseremaining oil pockets by acting "like turpentine on hardened paint."
In some ways this technology comes across as a band-aid solution.Rather than promoting change for common energy practices to methodsthat reduce environmental harm, CSS advocates burying the harm deepdown, underground. Out of sight and out of mind. A practice that somefear could cause irreparable damage down the road.