24 Oct 2008

Geo-Engineering Update

Geo-engineering is the idea that we can change climate by "engineering" giant space-reflectors, etc., and I oppose it.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is a way of grabbing and burying carbon so that total CO2 doesn't rise when we burn, say, coal. The US GAO -- an excellent organization AND part of government (!) -- has issued an overview that points out the numerous problems with CCS.

I realize that CCS is just another form of geo-engineering -- and similarly doomed to fail fall short of promise.

Bottom Line: The way to stop global warming is to stop doing the stuff causing global warming. Damn.


  1. You take that bottom line as an assumption?

    "The cost of electricity production would increase by 35 percent for newly constructed IGCC plants with CO2 capture..." In other words, it's cheaper than solar.

    (I find it interesting, in a country with 300,000,000 people, that they try to make it sound like "6000 CSS projects" is a lot. It would take even more than 6000 windmills to produce that much energy.)

    The appropriate solution will involve expenses, which means higher energy costs, which means we can be absolutely certain that conservation will be part of the best solution. It's nearly certain that CSS on otherwise business-as-usual fossil fuel plants is not going to be the whole solution. This GAO report doesn't in the least suggest to me that CSS shouldn't be part of the solution.

  2. You should have a special color or tag for posts where you're speaking off the cuff instead of as an economist.

    Obviously, if we follow your own proposal of a rebated carbon tax, you shouldn't (as an economist) have any opinion at all on what technology people use. The tax gives them the incentives to use whatever technology is optimal.

  3. @dwj: I realize that CCS may be part of the solution. I am opposed to the idea that CCS should be presented as a "free lunch" type of solution/subsidized/etc.

    @kevin: We agree on disaggregated choices. My opinion as an economist is that CCS supporters are trying to get special treatment. If CCS (or solar) can compete in an undistorted market (with carbon taxes :), then so be it.

    I hate, e.g., the US car manufacturers getting $25B for "clean car" research -- it's just pork.

    Sorry to be sloppy.

  4. Ahh, I didn't realize it was merely the subsidies you were objecting to. Peace.

    While you and I don't agree on the expected seriousness of the AGW problem, we certainly agree that using it as an excuse to parcel out pork is very bad indeed.

  5. After clarification, I likewise agree completely with your actual position.


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