CCS and Efficiency

Carbon Capture and Storage with energy-efficiency

Evaluate the True Costing of proposals such as Carbon Capture and Storage over very-long timescales while pushing energy-efficiency in buildings and energy grids

 

Within this overall context, oil and energy companies must openly work with governments to evaluate a slew of specific initiatives relating to fossil-fuels and greenhouse gases. At a global level it is worth at least checking the True Costing of proposed ‘geoengineering’ approaches – such as ways of reflecting more light from Earth back into space for instance by releasing massive quantities of aerosols into the atmosphere or placing huge numbers of mirrors above the Earth. Both these proposals would merely mask the effects of increased greenhouse gases, whereas other suggestions attempt to lessen the trend – such as by absorbing CO2 with huge numbers of artificial trees. On the surface, many geoengineering proposals appear extremely dubious – both in terms of success and unintended consequences – but they do nevertheless need to be evaluated properly.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) systems likewise need True Costing. At the moment, power companies are promoting them as a solution, and they are certainly potentially very attractive. But in truth no one actually knows what their full economic reality will be. The various CCS demonstration-projects planned to come online over the next several years will be informative. But even then, the full True Costing of large-scale CCS will be unclear – not least because of the extreme difficulty of guaranteeing no significant leaks, for thousands of years, whatever else happens.

Of all of President Obama’s various US energy-related policies announced in March 2011, energy-efficiency incentives may end up having more eventual impact than any of the more-publicized goals for energy security. That is because the rather lackluster approach of energy efficiency – which realistically can all-too-easily run counter to the self-interest of energy companies – tends to be by far the most cost-effective mechanism that there is to help economies wean off oil and reduce carbon emissions.

As a result, in addition to the obvious need for energy suppliers and governments to encourage businesses and the public to improve insulation, lights, heaters and appliances in their buildings – and for manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient designs of cars, trucks, ships and airplanes – energy suppliers must also push for far-greater efficiency in how electricity is generated in the first place. Currently, a vast amount of useful energy at power stations is typically lost as heat – and, as usual, GDP does not notice. Similarly, suppliers must take the initiative for ‘smart grids’ that improve the efficiency of how electricity is distributed – for instance offering offices and households disproportionate savings if they allow something like their air-conditioning automatically to turn off for a few minutes during peak times.