Japan's recent interest in Carbon Sequestration and Storage has sparked a debate on the pros and cons of this controversial technology.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is being tested at the Mikawa power station, located near the coast of Japan's southern Fukuoka prefecture.
Toshiba Corp. (PINK:TOSBF) has chosen it as a pilot site for a project it sees as a necessary complement to renewable energies such as wind and solar in the battle to cut industrial emissions blamed for global warming.
The logic is simple, world wide coal usage is expected to rise in coming decades--especially in China and India.
Even President Obama has conceded that much of America's energy will be derived from coal in the coming years. There's no getting around it, though the debate may not be one of idealism vs. realism, but rather evidence of Senate politics requiring heavy concessions.
While solar and wind are growing in their capacity and gradually diminishing in costs, they do not yet have the capability of reducing carbon emissions on a grand scale. By this I mean, they are not capable of replacing all of America's energy needs as of yet, regardless of their zero-emissions capabilities.
So, for many CSS is a viable option. "CCS will be the only technology to reduce emissions on a grand scale," said Shigeo Murai, who heads a study group on storing carbon dioxide, or CO2, at Japan's Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth. "At the same time it won't be able to reduce overall emissions on its own. It will need help from solar and wind power."
But there are concerns: environmentalists warn that the CO2 could seep out, and some geologists worry that it could erupt to the surface or even trigger minor earthquakes--not good news for Japan, which is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Greenpeace labels CSS as a "dangerous gamble" in a recent report, warning that large-scale projects "pose significant risks including negative health effects and damage to ecosystems (and) groundwater contamination."
But perhaps one of the most legitimate concerns is how this technology could result in a further dependence on fossil fuels. Toshiba experts say that in the so-called Enhanced Oil Recovery system, CO2 would be injected into semi-depleted oil fields and help release remaining oil pockets by acting "like turpentine on hardened paint."
In some ways this technology comes across as a band-aid solution. Rather than promoting change for common energy practices to methods that reduce environmental harm, CSS advocates burying the harm deep down, underground. Out of sight and out of mind. A practice that some fear could cause irreparable damage down the road.
Any opinion contained in this article is solely that of the writers, and does not necessarily shape or reflect the editorial opinions of Energy Boom. Energy Boom content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be advice regarding the investment merits of, or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of, any security identified on, or linked through, this site.