Carbon capture and storage. Sounds great, right? The basic idea is to stop polluting gases reaching the atmosphere, where they cause global warming, and instead store them underground.
The best way to do this is to *not burn fossil fuels in the first place*. But this does not sound too great to fossil fuel company executives and share-holders. They propose their own *best way* to do this: burn fossil fuels and spend loads of money on techno-wizardry to catch the released gases and store them underground, or under the sea. Or even better, burn fossil fuels and promise techno-wizardry in the future, for which governments will pay.
The UK government yesterday announced plans to financially support the techno-wizardry carbon storage option in Liverpool at a plant called HyNet North West. That’s good news for Eni, the Italian oil company involved, and various other engineers. But is it good news for the climate? Let’s look deeper.
The main aim of the project is to burn fossil gas to produce hydrogen, and to sell that hydrogen to the public and to industry. The carbon capture feature of the project is just an ‘option’, as they admit on their website.
If the carbon capture bit does not work, as it has failed to work so often in the past, HyNet won’t mind. But of course, we all know that fossil fuel companies are not in the business of minding if their activities cause devastating global warming.
The main aim of HyNet is to push for more burning of fossil gas, both now and in the future, regardless of whether the carbon capture thing works.
HyNet is about keeping fossil gas boilers in our homes. They say we can burn fossil gas for transport, too, via the hydrogen they want to sell. The carbon capture is an add-on, an option that can attract government finance and help sell the strategy. If the techno-wizardry fails, they will shrug.
North-west leaders should see through this game of smoke-and-mirrors. To do so they will have to go up against the energy companies and the UK government who have bought into this because it takes their pressure off. By making promises about carbon capture in the future, it takes the pressure off on electrification, on replacement of fossil gas boilers, on retrofits, and on transforming business models. Instead of doing what needs to be done, they are making more promises about later.
In case you aren’t yet convinced, here’s the unmissable ‘Australien’ government’s official position on carbon capture and storage.
Citizens who can see through the shell game will need to keep up pressure on local leaders, rather than let HyNet vent the pressure and get high on their own gas supply.
Robbie is a core member of Climate Emergency Manchester.