We’ve written many times about the benefits of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology. Unfortunately, this technology has run into one regulatory brick wall after another. That’s too bad, since many energy experts agree that carbon capture will be an essential tool for cutting carbon emissions and fighting climate change in the long term. With Democrats keen to reduce carbon under, we wonder aloud how CCUS might fare under a Biden Administration?
It seems certain that coal and natural gas will continue to be central sources in the U.S. power mix, at least for the next few decades, so cutting emissions from the fossil fuel power sector would make sense in an overall carbon-cutting strategy. With that in mind, many energy advocates say CCUS might be one thing upon which Democrats and Republicans both can agree, even with a potentially divided Congress.
“The sorts of policies that are required to make carbon capture more mainstream … and a commercially available technology, appeal to both moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans and that’s the core set of votes that are needed,” said Sasha Mackler, director of an energy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It feels like we’re set up for a pretty strong carbon capture agenda in the next Congress.”
Fortunately, President-elect Biden has made his support for CCUS known, vowing to “double down” on the technology. The President-elect has also announced a plan to reach 100% clean energy in the next 15 years. Having such a plan creates even more urgency for CCUS innovation. Sasha Mackler also points out that supporting CCUS might have political value as well, endearing the new administration to coal-heavy states that didn’t support Biden in the recent election.
One of the priorities of carbon capture advocates is to expand the 45Q tax credits for captured carbon dioxide. The current tax credit guidelines don’t give industries much time to claim the credit before it expires in 2023. Yet, CCUS legislation has a history of taking years to move through Congress and there’s little reason to believe that would change under a new administration.
A Biden Administration, however, may be able to act independently of Congress to support carbon capture technology. For starters, his administration could increase staffing at the Office of Water, particularly pertaining to the permitting of wells used to inject CO2 into deep rock formations for sequestration. The future president could also make sure that his EPA supports CCUS technology.
If wide-scale adoption of CCUS were to happen, there could be benefits beyond the electric industry. For example, CCUS could be used to cut emissions from other carbon-emitting sectors too. Carbon could also be captured from the steel and cement industries. That could be a big deal for reaching net-zero emissions.
It remains to be seen how CCUS will fare over the next four years, but signs are promising. As we’ve said before, CCUS technology is a clean, reliable way forward to cut emissions while ensuring the reliability of the grid and affordability of electric power. Let’s hope the new administration continues support for this vital ground-breaking technology.