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Carbon capture rip-off

The government’s commitment to provide £90 million of public money for experiments in unproven, risky carbon capture technology is just the first instalment on a bill to the taxpayer and energy consumers that could run into billions.

Agreement to build a new generation of coal-fired power stations at Kingsnorth and elsewhere is imminent. They will be up and running probably two or more years before any carbon capture technology is ready, pumping out vast quantities of CO2.

Retro-fitting power stations with carbon capture and storage technology, or constructing them with it from the outset, will increase construction costs by between £1-2 billion per plant – a cost that will be passed on to energy consumers.

Generating power in this way will also use far more coal. A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that power stations would need to burn 27% more coal to power the carbon capture technology itself. In the meantime, investment in alternative energy has collapsed.

There is no evidence whatsoever that carbon capture actually works. But there are already some test projects out there – in Germany, the US and Saudi Arabia. If the government was really serious about reducing emissions they would wait to see how these experiments worked out – and take decisions based on the science.

In the meantime, they could spend public cash on super-insulating every home in the country to the best possible standard that could be achieved. At least then citizens would get the benefit of lower fuel bills in easier-to-heat homes, in return for the investment of their taxes.

The reality is that the funding for carbon capture has nothing to do with climate change. It is simply being used to justify the decision the government has in reality already taken to go ahead with new coal-fired power stations. And it will also give UK companies a foothold in the growing carbon capture and storage market that is developing across the world.

It is potentially lucrative business for the energy corporations – and as a bonus, they can get public money to enter the market AND increase the price of energy to consumers to cover the higher running costs.

What this underlines is that solutions to climate change cannot be delivered by the profit-driven energy market. They and the government are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and pick our pockets at the same time – excuse the mixed metaphors.

However, transferring public money to fraudulent (remember ENRON?), reckless, profit-driven energy corporations is the only response the government is capable of making to the combined financial/economic/climate crisis.

The vast indebtedness that the government is adding to with this latest corporate scam is going to blow up the public finances – a process that is underway already. The result will be a collapse of public services, a fall in the value of pensions and wages and mass unemployment.

And in the meantime – runaway climate change will continue unabated in any way by these market-based measures.

Who will come to our aid? We have to come to our own aid! If we act quickly to wrest power from the state and the corporations who make these reckless decisions then there is still time to start to mitigate the now unavoidable effects of climate change.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
24 April 2009

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