Carbon capture and utilization (CCU), the process of capturing carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and transforming it into useful products, was barely on the radar of elected officials at the end of last year. Despite the potential of algae (which consume huge quantities of CO2 as they grow) and other CCU technologies to play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and provide a revenue stream for emitters as they clean up their processes, the idea of CCU was rarely included in policy proposals aimed at reforming how we use energy.
That is starting to change. The most significant milestone for CCU in 2015 was undoubtedly the provisions for the technology that were included in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan that will direct states on options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countless innovators in the algae industry spoke up as the EPA formulated this rule, and now there is a good regulatory foundation for any state that wants to incent a power plant to use their CO2 to grow algae, or install similar technology.
But the CCU momentum continues to build.
This week Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pressed U.S. negotiators to include CCU in any final agreement reached at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Senators Heitkamp and Whitehouse encouraged negotiators to work with global partners and commit to proving out carbon capture utilization and storage.
This recommendation for global support of CCU comes a few months after the Senate included in its version of the energy bill a provision to increase R&D funding for CCU technologies.
This is the kind of R&D funding that comes with multiplying benefits. CCU has a unique potential to help us significantly reduce the CO2 waste gases we are currently pumping into the air. Instead of treating CO2 as a costly disposal problem, CCU offers an incentive to use greenhouse gases productively, taking them out of circulation with an economic incentive, rather than a regulatory cost.
ABO is grateful for the support of Senators Heitkamp, Whitehouse, and all those that have voted in favor of developing this important technology here in the United States, and the world.