Sunday, June 15, 2008

But There Was a Catch

I wrote about the Acorn blog last night. Tonight I present my first shot at an Acorn blog post. I'm not sure what I think of it, but maybe some of you will have some thoughts for me.

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According to an article in the New York Times last week, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has a tough road ahead of it. No one will take it seriously until someone else demonstrates it at commercial scale, and no one wants to be that "someone else."

While there are promising technologies in laboratories, the costs of commercial implementation are unknown, and, in the States at least, regulators aren't ready to take any chances.

Not long ago, the Appalachian Power Company applied to build a plant that would have captured 90% of its carbon and deposited it deep underground. The regulatory commission denied the application, saying that the risks to ratepayers, who would have had to bear the cost of CCS implementation through higher electricity rates, were too high. In the commission's opinion, no power company should build CCS into a commercial-scale plant because no other power company has demonstrated the technology on a commercial scale.

A classic Catch-22. No commercial scale implementation allowed until commercial scale implementation has been proven successful. The viciously circular perpetuation of a clearly suboptimal state of affairs.

Bad news for CCS for sure, but I don't think there's reason to give up hope.

The article cited one situation in which the government tried to step in and heavily subsidize the construction of a single CCS-enabled plant. As planning moved forward, the estimated cost of the project spiraled out of control, and the Department of Energy bailed. But it was a start; it showed that the government is paying attention. And, as technologies improve, maybe next time the price'll be right.

And there's always overseas. Norway's got a little something going on, and they even have an interactive interface that explains what they're doing. Worth a few clicks for sure.

We'll be keeping an eye on carbon capture and sequestration technologies. It's unclear what the future of renewables holds, so it's possible that we're going to have to rely on coal-fired electricity for quite a long time. If we do that, it's of utmost importance that we solve coal's greenhouse gas emissions problem. If Acorn can contribute to that solution by supporting great entrepreneurs looking to implement promising carbon sequestration technologies, we'll do it.

If anyone has info or thoughts or opportunities to share, we'd love to hear from you.

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Is that a reasonable way to end it? Say we're watching. Say we're interested. Invite responses. Or should I just leave all that unsaid and figure the responses, if people have them, will come without explicit solicitation?

And what about the language? Any reason not to talk-write a post on a "professional" blog?

And CCS? Crazy situation, right? I've heard a bunch of different commentary on CCS. Heard people say it's a pipe dream technology that's 35 years out at the very least. Heard people worry about leaking, worry about toxicity underground. Heard people talk about limited time and money and attention and wonder about the opportunity cost of pursuing clean coal rather than focusing on something more long term abundant like sunlight. And, of course, I've heard that we'd be crazy not to bark up every tree we can find: cleaner coal is a lot better for the world than dirty coal, and choosing not to pursue a better world (even if it's only one that's incrementally better) is dangerous.

So, anyway, there you go. A stab at an Acorn blog post. I'm sure we'll discuss at the office a bit this coming week. If you have any ideas, tell me tell me.

Note: Tough for me to see a reference to Catch-22 and not get at least a little tangential. There are two books that taught me how much I loved to read. Jurassic Park in sixth grade and Catch-22 in ninth. Before Jurassic Park, I relied entirely on last chapters, back covers, and my imagination to survive reading assignments. Before Catch-22, I took for granted the stories I read. I figured authors just sat down and wrote wrote wrote. No planning, no thinking, no craft. Catch-22 turned me on to the open-endedness of stories. The many perspectives. The choices storytellers have. The infinite amount of space we have when we're telling stories to add more details, to set more stage, to prepare our audience for what's coming.

2 comments:

oneselfishgirl said...

I liked the note. The under the covers-flashlight boy reading for the first time. It seemed so unrelated as to be a different writer - and I wanted for "an interim post" a break in the dialogue of moreperfectmarket just to miss that first time. You always remember your firsts.

The carbon sequestration blog was excellent. I am not worthy. More to come.

Jake de Grazia said...

Jurassic Park was less of an under the covers flashlight read and more of an everywhere I go I have a book attached to my face read.

I was a dinosaur FIEND when I was little.

By sixth grade, I had come out of it a little bit (on the surface at least), but give a kid that can talk for hours about the disputed predatory habits of the Struthiomimus an epic like Jurassic Park, and you're not going to break him out of dinosaur trance relapse for quite a while.