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NUMBY Californians

Here’s another reason why carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not really such a good idea. The basic idea is that we will just capture all the CO2 produced by coal-fired power plants, pump it under high pressure across the country and shove it thousands of feet underground where it will stay for infinity and not bother nobody. The concept sounds cool, but it has actually never been proven on an industrial scale and even if it does prove out, it will be decades before the technology begins to ramp up.

In California, a consortium of government agencies and energy companies funded by the DOE to study sequestration called the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB) has been looking for a good test site in which to park a few thousand tons of CO2 for some time. So far, not much luck. A good article in the latest Mother Jones, Not Under My Backyard, points out that Californians haven’t exactly been flocking to the idea. In the small town of Thornton, the mayor said “Even though they said there was no potential danger, I don’t think the community believed that 100 percent.” An advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists talked about the possibility that the CO2 may not stay exactly where it is put and there is a possibility of groundwater pollution. “It’s tricky to know what conduits exist underground,” she says. “Those could be a potential pathway for the CO2 or the other minerals to leach out.” Thornton said, No Thanks.

It seems that so far, WESTCARB isn’t having a lot of luck convincing California residents that they are being told the entire story about CCS. In their latest foray at Birds Landing, an unincorporated community of 130 in Solano County, a nearby city councilman told WESTCARB, “You are telling me about how this might benefit WESTCARB, but you aren’t telling me anything about how this might harm anyone living in the area.

Due to the immense amount of time that the carbon will have to stay exactly where it is put, there is no way to assure residents that there won’t be problems sometime in the future. And that, rightly, has the people who have to live on top of the toxic reservoir a bit worried. About 25 possible sequestration sites have been identified nationwide. A DOE study found that 11 of 19 possible sites “reported significant legal obstacles“. I know it sounds awfully narrow minded to be against having a high-pressure poison pumped or trucked through your community and stored underneath your house, but it amounts to just one more in a long list of reasons why the concept of Clean Coal and CCS in particular, is a really dumb idea.

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