The Biden administration is issuing new guidelines on how to capture carbon. The guidelines are targeting federal agencies and are part of the administration’s broader plan to deal with carbon dioxide pollution and the threat of climate change. The guidelines will also see the deployment of controversial climate capture technologies and an accompanying network of pipelines needed to make this work.
Also, in the bi-partisan infrastructure bill that was passed by the US Congress, there was an allocation of around $12 billion for carbon capture. Much of this money is expected to go towards Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) projects around the United States. It is widely understood that the administration will need massive investments in these technologies if indeed the capture program will have any chance of success.
The idea of using CCUS is highly divisive. Those who support these technologies argue that they are crucial in helping to decarbonize heavily polluting industries. But others note that CCUS is often used to disguise pollution.
Opponents of these technologies say that it's very easy for polluters to appear like they are taking action against pollution by deploying such technologies. But there is no evidence to show that they can be effective in addressing the global carbon problem.
Nonetheless, the administration is confident that the new guidelines issued today for federal agencies will help bring more carbon capture technologies into the mainstream. Also, the guidelines have provisions that provide a detailed handbook for federal authorities on how to vet and gauge CCUS proposals.
The White House is also including what it calls "Direct Air Capture" in these guidelines. You see, in most cases, CCUS simply refers to technologies that are designed to remove emissions right before they leave power plants and other industrial locations. According to the White House, “Direct Air Capture” will be technologies that remove CO2 that is already in the air.
While this sounds difficult to do, the guidelines will assess any proposal that plans to do that and the kind of merits they bring to the table. But despite this, experts agree that CCUS can only be used as part of a broader climate strategy. Yes, these technologies can play a key role in limiting emissions from heavily polluting industries.
But the degree of success varies a lot from one project to the next. It has also been argued that there are no federal standards right now that govern the deployment of these technologies. More oversight is indeed needed. In essence, there should be ways through which government agencies can independently verify the purported efficacy of CCUS and the impact they have if any on cutting pollution.
The White House is also inviting the public to present input on the new guidelines. This will happen until March 18th before all feedback is incorporated into the final handbook. The key will be to make sure that the deployment of CCUS is not done just for PR purposes. There need to be standards that ensure polluters don't cheat their way out of environmental responsibilities by claiming to use CCUS.