CO2 pricing key to cutting coal wastes, panel says

By Frederic J. Frommer
Associated Press / August 13, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The key to developing technology to store coal plants’ pollution underground is charging them for the carbon dioxide they release into the air, a presidential task force says.

The experimental technique is aimed at reducing pollution blamed for contributing to global warming.

In a report released yesterday, the task force says that without a price for carbon pollution, there is no framework for investing in the underground storage technology, known as carbon capture and storage.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest contributor to US greenhouse gas emissions, which is why the Obama administration is aggressively pushing for cleaner coal technologies, says the report. The Energy Department is funding demonstration projects with $4 billion in federal funds, matched by more than $7 billion in private investments.

Senate Democrats were forced to shelve climate legislation advanced by John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, because they could not get any Republicans to support it. The Republicans assailed the bill as a national energy tax and jobs killer, arguing that the costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills and fuel costs.

President Obama created the task force in February, charging it with developing a plan to overcome barriers to widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon storage technology within 10 years — with a goal of bringing five to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.

A big issue is liability costs if something goes wrong. A sudden release of large amounts of carbon dioxide can kill by asphyxiation. In 1986, about 1,700 people died when a cloud of carbon dioxide escaped from a volcanic lake in Cameroon.

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