Burying the problem?

22 Jun

As I continue last weeks’ path of Germany’ s nuclear phase out, I today will deal with another difficulty the country is now facing.

German Chancellor Merkel admitted the shift from nuclear to renewable energy can only be achieved by making use of fossil fuels for the time in between.

If we want to exit nuclear energy and enter renewable energy, for the transition time we need fossil power plants, at least 10, more likely 20 gigawatts [of fossil capacity] need to be built in the coming 10 years“, Merkel said in a parliamentary declaration.

This will of course cause short- to mid- term increases in CO2 emissions, but since another governmental goal is also the reduction of CO2 emissions, politicians are facing a major task.

The solution to this problem might be a technology called “Carbon Capture and storage”. To see how this might help, check out the following video:

You can also or instead have a look on science author Chris Woodford‘s very detailed but understandable explanation on explainthatstuff.com which also includes the basic pros and cons of CCS. His description of the technology is very well done and comprehensible, he refers to some very old and not up- to- date articles though.

On my way finding out whether CCS is a proper tool to fix not only Germany’s but the whole world’s problem of emitting too much CO2, I found an interview in the “Märkische Oderzeitung” with Swedish energy giant Vattenfall’s CEO Reinhardt Hassa. He only names advantages of the CCS technology. He says the method is applied already since 1996 and claims it is an “indispensable option” on the way to less Co2 emissions. Although the aspects he mentions sound very positive and auspicious, you must not neglect the fact that he is arguing from a very one- sided and biased perspective since he runs the coal power stations and has no interest in investing in renewables. Furthermore, some of his answers are more than debatable.

A completely different opinion I found in a post by famous Australian science journalist Stephen Luntz. He calls CCS research ”a waste of money”, since the price for renewable energy e.g. solar panels is heavily decreasing and by the time CCS can properly be implemented, the marginal costs of solar energy will be even lower than the costs of coal:

Even if 2020 proves a little ambitious for solar’s price parity, there is no question that any coal-fired power station with capture built that year will spend the bulk of it’s working life competing with solar modules that are cheaper per kilowatt hour of energy produced”.


To me, this post was very persuasive with some great links providing more information. I especially liked that in the end, he is also referring to some of CCS’s advantages but still succeeds in leaving the reader with this feeling of “This stuff is not worth spending money on”. Besides his good arguments, this broader discussion of the topic makes him a lot more convincing than narrow minded CEO Hassa.

Eventually, I can say that in my last post, it is the first time I do not conclude with promoting the idea I dealt with. Since Mr. Luntz really convinced me, I want to end with saying that CCS will not be the #1 solution to the problem of CO2 emission as there are better and cheaper ways. However, I cannot fully deny its advantages and still imagine it to be implemented in some German or global power plants.

One Response to “Burying the problem?”

  1. lenahaase June 26, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    thanks for your great post! It was very informative and I’ve got a better impression of the whole CO2- burying idea! 🙂 Right now, I cannot imagine that this system really works, but it would be indeed very attractive! Maybe scientists will accomplish this project pretty soon because apparently it has a lot of supporters like Vattenfall.
    I like that you include different perspectives into your post and your quotations are very well chosen. The short movie gives me a better understanding of how they want construct it.
    However, maybe you should include more content in your title. If people look for CO2 emissions on the Internet, your blog post probably won’t appear. Maybe a short subtitle, which includes “CO2 emissions” might help. In addition, people get a better idea what you are
    writing about before reading the rest!

    Great job!!!

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