CBO: Future bleak for carbon-cutting technology

The United States’ multi-billion dollar effort to develop carbon capture and storage for coal power plants hasn’t significantly expanded the use of the emissions-cutting technology, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The federal government has funneled about $6.9 billion into developing carbon capture and storage technology since 2005, but the method has failed to meet goals set by the Department of Energy, the CBO found.

Carbon capture and storage reduces air pollution from coal power plants by liquefying the carbon emissions and storing them in underground reservoirs.

In the report released Thursday, the agency suggested that Congress adopt policies that reduce carbon emissions, redirect funding to more successful CCS projects, or stop backing CCS development altogether.

“Current policies are unlikely to achieve the goal of reducing the additional costs for producing electricity with CCS technology to 35 percent more than the cost of producing electricity without CCS,” the agency concluded. “Lawmakers could substantially reduce or discontinue funding for both developing and demonstrating the technology.”

The CBO study found that electricity generated by coal power plants equipped with CCS would cost about 75 percent more than electricity generated without the technology. To reach the Department of Energy’s target of 35 percent, more than 200 gigawatts of coal power generation will have to be built.

Currently, the nation has about 340 gigawatts of coal power.

Without government incentives, it’s unlikely that utilities will build that much new coal power, the CBO said.

“Current projections indicate that the United States is unlikely to need an additional 210 GW of coal-fired generating capacity in the near future,” the report noted.