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In Decatur IL ADM and the DOE Pump CO2 Underground

Sandra Lindberg

Those of you able to analyze this latest techno fix, read this article about a project that sequesters CO2 beneath a local community college and a large ADM facility in Decatur IL. The CO2 is a product of an ethanol plant. My understanding is that the energy required for the production of ethanol is already known to be greater than the energy provided by the fuel. To that now add the energy needed to sequester CO2 1.5 miles underground. Deep into the article there are statements acknowledging that projects such as these will do nothing significant in terms of global CO2 reduction, but that hasn't stopped ADM or the DOE.

In a period of limited time and limited resources with which to address climate change, this project seems exactly the wrong road to take. Or am I missing something here?


Ted F

As the need grows for assurance that everything is going to be all right, we will see lots of ballyhoo in the press about techno fixes. I'm afraid we'll be playing whack-a-mole to keep up with these as they are promoted uncritically by journalists eager to report good news on the climate front. Ian Angus recently raised questions about whether Christian Parenti's touting of an Icelandic sequestration project is merited.

Parenti doesn’t seem to have read beyond the gee-whiz headlines. Geophysicist Andy Skuce reports in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the experimenters only buried 250 tonnes of CO2, and the gas had first to be dissolved in “almost unimaginable amounts of water” — 25 tonnes of H2O for every tonne of CO2. Not only is that unsustainable, “it is unknown how well the results in Iceland can be applied at large scale in other locales.” As Joe Romm of Climate Progress says, “CCS simply hasn’t yet proven to be practical, affordable, scalable, and ready to be ramped up rapidly.”
I am not qualified to pronounce on whether Ian's criticism is on target, but I suspect it is. Parenti came to Oakland a week ago and again held up the Icelandic technofix as if it proves that we already have the technology to move massive amounts of CO2 underground. If we get the science wrong, it is easy to get the politics wrong. I do hope the Icelandic miracle will be thoroughly analyzed by scientists who understand the need to address issues of scalability, side effects, etc.