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January 8, 2014

Reality vs. EPA’s Carbon Capture Dreams

January 8, 2014
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The EPA published this week a rule in the Federal Register that will essentially ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. This creates a carbon dioxide emission standard that is impossible for a coal-fired power plant to meet without technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) attached to the plant. EPA claims that CCS is “adequately demonstrated” as is required by federal law, but this is not true.

EPA cannot point to a single power plant that is operating successfully with this technology, despite billions of dollars of federal subsidies. Worse, just this week CPS Energy allowed their purchase power agreement with one of projects to expire because the project is so far behind schedule.

In the regulation released today, EPA points to two power plants that are currently under construction: Southern Company’s Kemper County Energy Facility,  SaskPower’s Boundary Dam CCS Project and three additional power plants that are still in the planning phase, Texas Clean Energy Project, Hydrogen Energy California, LLC, and NRG Energy’s post-combustion carbon capture project in Houston, Texasc. Every single one of these projects have received millions in subsidies but not a single one is producing electricity:

  • The Kemper County Energy Facility received a $270 million grant from the Department of Energy and $133 million in investment tax credits approved by the IRS. Originally it was projected to cost $2.4 billion project but is now estimated to cost $4.3 billion.
  • SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project is estimated to cost $1.24 billion to build a small 110 MW power plant. The project received $240 million from the Canadian federal government in 2010 and as of October 2013, the project was $115 million over budget.
  • The Texas Clean Energy Project received $450 million from the Department of Energy under the DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative. This project is still in the planning phase.
  • Hydrogen Energy California is funded in part by a $408 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. This project is still in the planning phase.
  • NRG Energy’s post-combustion carbon capture project at the company’s W.A. Parish generating station southwest of Houston received $167 million from DOE’s Clean Coal Project Initiative.

Besides huge cost overruns and millions in subsidies, there is no guarantee that these projects will all be built, or that they will even work when they are built.  As noted above, the CPS Energy has cancelled their purchase power agreement with the Texas Clean Energy Project because the project is so far behind schedule.

How can EPA credibly argue that CCS had been “adequately demonstrated” when there isn’t a single power plant employing this technology successfully? How can EPA argue that CCS is “adequately demonstrated” when every single project they point to has received millions in subsidies and almost certainly would not have been built without the subsidies?

The reality on the ground shows that CCS is not ready and not commercial technology. But EPA is not really concerned about what is truly feasible or what leads to low-cost electricity. EPA has an anti-coal agenda and claiming that CCS is ready is one step in their long-term goal of eliminating coal and coal jobs.


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