Other policies to address carbon-dioxide emissions

Other policies to address carbon-dioxide emissions

In 2007 Tuscarawas County was selected to host a $2.3 million project conducted by Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey.

This project involved drilling a test well to evaluate the capacity of underlying rock strata to store carbon-dioxide emissions. The technique is called carbon capture and storage or CCS.

Carbon-dioxide emissions are captured by a chemical absorbent placed inside the smokestack of a power plant or other facility that burns fossil fuels. The gas is released from the absorbent by heating. Finally the captured gas is compressed and injected deep into geological formations.

The Ohio Coal Development Office was one of the collaborating parties on this project, which would benefit power plants, refineries and natural-gas plants by “stripping” carbon emissions from their smokestacks. The technique cannot be used for applications such as transportation emissions or emissions from agricultural processes.

The site, which was selected by researchers who worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Battelle Memorial Institute, was approximately 2 miles northeast of Port Washington, off state Route 36.

It was thought if the geology of Ohio was favorable for deep-well carbon storage, more industries such as oil and gas facilities would be attracted to the state.

A public meeting was held at the Kent State Tuscarawas campus at the time of this announcement. Our family, along with many other local citizens, attended the meeting. The major fear of many in attendance was how this deep well (8,600 feet) might affect their well water.

In theory, a well drilled into porous rock would be able to distribute carbon dioxide in that rock layer much like the way oil and gas deposits are naturally held in the layers. A higher porosity rock like sandstone will allow the gas to move through the layer while an upper, less porous layer of rock like shale traps the gas from escaping.

Think of it like a cake, the sponge portion being the porous rock while the icing is the upper, impermeable shale layer. Up until this time, little was known about the geology deep below the state, so the project filled some knowledge gaps about Ohio’s subsurface layers.

The results, currently published on the ODNR site, showed the rock formations at ODNR CO2 Number 1 Well were not porous enough to be used for storage. All stages of the CCS process are expensive. According to a 2016 article in CleanTechnica, “In the case of coal, CCS can add between $300-$350 per ton of coal burned.”

There also are possibilities of leaks, resulting in the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which can add to climate-change problems and affect human health. These are usually triggered by earthquakes or a human accident.

Another technique for emissions mitigation is “cap and trade,” which is a market-based approach used to control air pollution by using economic incentives. California started its cap and trade program, the fourth largest in the world, in 2013. About 450 businesses in the state, which produce 85 percent of California’s greenhouse gases, are regulated by this program.

The cap portion is the amount of carbon dioxide or other pollutant a company or industry is allowed to emit: for example, 1 ton of pollutants annually. Over time the amount of the cap declines, which means companies must find ways to cut back on their emissions. It’s like a carbon “allowance.”

The trade portion allows companies that cut their pollution to trade their remaining credits to a polluting company that then pays for these credits. The extra credits also can be banked for future use as well. So companies that find ways to reduce emissions are rewarded while polluters are economically punished.

The cap or allowance can be lowered each year, creating even more incentive for polluters to reduce their emissions, rather than buy extra credits from other companies. In addition to California, nine New England states participate in a cap and trade program under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Another economic strategy to address carbon-dioxide emissions is the carbon tax. This is a government fee “imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil and gas.”

A recent New York Times article reported that “more than 40 governments worldwide have now adopted some sort of price on carbon.” Canada’s program in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec starts the tax at $15 per ton of carbon and will rise to $38 per ton by 2022. The majority of revenue will be refunded to Canadian citizens via their tax bills.

Finally the Citizens Climate Lobby, an international grassroots environmental group of over 100,000 members, urges the adoption of a “carbon fee and dividend program.” New bipartisan legislation, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), specifically addresses creating this program in the U.S. This is a “national, revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system that would place a rising price on carbon and return the fees collected minus administrative costs to households as a monthly energy dividend.”

Unlike a straight carbon tax, which could increase the costs of food and fuel, this program would not be burdensome on poor families. It would in fact create jobs by putting money back into the economy.

The initial fee proposed is $15 per ton of carbon, and this would increase by $10 each year until carbon-dioxide emissions have been reduced to 10 percent of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions in 1990.

While some of these programs show promise in cutting some emissions, the best way to control carbon emissions is to never make them in the first place.

An April 2019 CleanTechnica article said, “Wind and solar are displacing roughly 35 times as much carbon dioxide every year as the complete global history of carbon capture and storage.”

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