Carbon Storage Captures Attention of Federal and Regional Lawmakers

Stateline Midwest, a publication of the Midwestern Office of the Council of State Governments: Vol 19, No. 3: March 2010.

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If the nation is to overcome the environmental, technological and cost obstacles standing in the way of fully tapping into its vast coal reserves  (thought to be enough to meet U.S. energy needs for another 200 to 300 years), the Midwest will likely have to be at the center of the effort.

The coal-rich region is home not only to considerable reserves of this fossil fuel, but to the geological formations suitable for storing it. Michigan-based Core Energy, an enhanced-oil-and-recovery company, estimates that the saline aquifers in its home state could store between 1 trillion and 3.7 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 330 years of the nation’s CO2 production.

Both the federal government and the Midwest’s governors have made carbon capture and storage (CCS) a part of their long-term strategies for fostering energy independence and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

At the federal level, the Obama administration recently created the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage,which has been given four months to develop a federal plan to “overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years.” Obama’s goal is to have five to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.

Working collaboratively through the Midwestern Governors Association, the region’s governors have already been working to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced coal technologies. In October 2009, they established a regional CCS task force to oversee these efforts.The task force’s duties include reviewing CCS legislation in the region as well as harmonizing statutory and regulatory policies. It will also help meet some of the policy and implementation goals set by the MGA:

  • New state incentives for CCS deployment;
  • The establishment of publicly regulated CO2 sequestration utilities to provide commercial energy facilities with a sound CO2 storage solution; and
  • Work on a regional CO2 pipeline network.

The MGA has outlined a series of policy options that states can take to further advanced coal technologies. They include tax abatements and credits for CCS projects; the creation of public-private consortia to research, develop and commercially deploy CCS technologies; and new workforce development programs that train people to build CO2 pipelines as well as operate CO2 capture and storage facilities.

In 2007, the MGA established ambitious goals for CCS, including to have all new coal-gasification and coal-combustion plants in the region capture and store carbon emissions by 2020, and to transition the Midwest’s entire fleet of coal plants to CCS by 2050. More information on the MGA’s work on advanced-coal technologies and other areas of energy policy is available at http://www.midwesterngovernors.org/energy.htm.