Dorgan Delves Deeper into CCS

Not surprisingly, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is interested in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and its application to coal-fueled electricity generation. North Dakota gets almost 90 percent of its electricity from coal, and the state is the 10th largest producer of coal in the United States.

In mid-2008, Senator Dorgan convened a group of stakeholders with interest in CCS under the banner of a “Clean Coal and Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technology Development Pathways Initiative” (CCS Initiative) and asked them to provide input related to a number of key questions regarding CCS. Participants included representatives from the electric power industry, coal industry, manufacturing, labor, academics, and NGOs. The questions posed by the Senator focused on such issues as how much funding for CCS is required to ensure the technology is ready for broad deployment and how the United States can expand its cooperation with other key coal-producing and coal-consuming nations to accelerate international deployment of CCS.

On December 1, Senator Dorgan released a report prepared by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) that summarized input provided by the CCS Initiative participants.

The CCS Initiative participants’ suggested funding levels and funding mechanisms for CCS overlapped with the CCS funding level and incentive mechanisms included in the climate and energy bills passed by the House (H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) and reported out of committee in the Senate (S.1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act). A recent Pew Center brief explains what the House energy and climate bill, in particular, does for coal and CCS, including providing a projected $100 billion for CCS demonstration and deployment through 2030. In addition, on the topic of international deployment, the CCS Initiative report highlights the potential for the U.S. and other developed nations to cooperate with China on CCS projects. China’s rapid industrialization and energy infrastructure build up could enable faster commercialization of CCS technologies and related improvements in CCS economics.

We believe that along with a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and associated price on carbon, government policies to support CCS—especially financial incentives for early commercial-scale projects—are critical to advancing CCS technology and market readiness. With proper policies in place, CCS can play a significant role as one key low-carbon technology in the portfolio of technologies needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest cost.

Steve Caldwell is a Technology and Policy Fellow