Is carbon storage technology safe?

One rather controversial topic that I always consider carefully before covering is carbon capture and sequestration technology. These are technologies designed to help existing "dirty" generation technologies, such as coal-fired power plants, reduce their carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

One rather controversial topic that I always consider carefully before covering is carbon capture and sequestration technology. These are technologies designed to help existing "dirty" generation technologies, such as coal-fired power plants, reduce their carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Purists would say they just mask the problem (I'm somewhere in the middle on this one), but the fact of the matter is that they are receiving plenty of funding and there are plenty of pilots under way.

That said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just finalized new "rules" that are related to how captured carbon is stored. Much of it is injected underground, a process called geologic sequestration. The potential downside to that approach is the potential impact on drinking water. So, the EPA has finalized policies to help address drinking water protection AND to track the amount of carbon that is sequestered.

That means, yes, more regulations. For example, there is a new class of injection well that has been established to ensure that these things are put in the right place. The way that facilities account for reporting on the greenhouse gas emissions captured through these procedures is also covered under a different rule.

The fact that the EPA is watching this so closely reminds me of the nuclear technology era of my childhood, when I remember hearing stories about the potential impact of waste disposal. I'm not equating carbon storage with the impact of nuclear waste, but my point is that we don't know what we don't know about many of these alternative energy technology approaches. And, to be fair, that goes for all the renewable energy technologies under development, including solar panels and wind turbines. Pragmatic innovation must rule the day.

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