ORVI Insider #25: CCUS Is the Worst Possible Way To Decarbonize the Electric System


The  latest news, research, and analysis from the Ohio River Valley Institute.

October 19, 2021

With tensions mounting over looming federal infrastructure spending, a technological dark horse has Congress divided on the decarbonization front. Supporters claim that subsidizing carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) would vastly reduce carbon emissions from the U.S. power system and preserve jobs in the oil and gas industry that might otherwise evaporate. Our new report, Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration Would Decarbonize the Electric System…In the Worst Possible Way, explains why the unproven technology would actually stymie job creation and cost about $100 billion per year in the form of rate hikes or increased taxes if proposed CCUS legislation worked as intended. Adopting CCUS in the power system would increase Americans’ electric bills by 25%, the report finds. How much would you pay if CCUS were adopted in the power system?

A new report from ORVI, ReImagine Appalachia and the Union for Concerned Scientists shows how cleaning up coal ash can spur local economies and improve the environment. The Ohio Valley is home to more than 160 toxic coal ash disposal sites, many of which are located near communities and along major rivers. Remediating these sites the right way—with strong worker protections—can create jobs, increase the potential for redevelopment of closing coal plants, and mitigate pollution exposure for frontline areas. 

If not properly retired, capped, and remediated, aging oil and gas wells can also pose serious environmental and public health risks to nearby communities. So how has a little-known oil and gas company struck gold by buying up these decaying wells? Energy Transfer has purchased more than 60,000 wells near the end of their productive lives, leaving regulators, landowners, and environmentalists concerned about how—and if—they’ll be plugged. Senior Researcher Ted Boettner, an expert on abandoned wells, told Bloomberg Green that “the model seems like it’s abandoning those assets. It looks like a liability bomb that’s about to explode.” 

Diversified Energy shares fell by as much as 21% after the release of Bloomberg Green’s article. 

Here’s the latest from the Ohio River Valley Institute:

Research Spotlight

Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration  (CCUS) Would Decarbonize the Electric System…in the Worst Possible Way

With a price tag of $100 billion/year, widespread adoption of CCUS in our electric system would spark outrage if its cost showed up in our monthly bills. But members of Congress, including some climate hawks, are coalescing around legislation that would make us pay through our taxes instead.

Supporters claim that Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration (CCUS) technology could vastly reduce carbon emissions from America’s power system and that it would save jobs in coal mining and natural gas and in power plants. Our new report explains why they’re wrong.

Read it here

Repairing the Damage: Cleaning Up Hazardous Coal Ash Can Create Jobs and Improve the Environment

In addition to economic impacts, coal-fired power plants leave behind coal ash, one of the largest waste streams in the US. There are over 160 coal ash disposal sites in the Ohio Valley, and many of these toxic sites are located along major rivers and pose risks to public health and the environment. 

However, if done correctly with strong worker safety protections, cleaning up these sites can create jobs and increase the potential for redevelopment of closing coal plants. Pollution clean up is essential to ensuring these areas are places where people can safely live and work. 

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ORVI In the News

An Empire of Dying Wells (Bloomberg Green) 

Diversified Energy, a relative newcomer to the oil and gas scene, is buying up oil and gas wells near the end of their lifespan at a breakneck clip, generating massive gains in the stock market and alarming some regulators, landowner groups, environmental advocates, and even industry insiders. At the rate the company is paying dividends to shareholders, some worry there will be nothing left when the bills come due—meaning the significant cost of cleaning up and retiring these aging wells could be passed onto state governments, Zachary R. Mider and Rachel Adams-Heard report. “The model seems like it’s built on abandoning those assets,” says Senior Researcher Ted Boettner. “It looks like a liability bomb that’s destined to explode.”

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Personalities of Pittsburgh: Joanne Kilgour is Working to Improve Quality of Life (Pittsburgh Business-Times) 

Executive Director Joanne Kilgour sits down with Paul Gough at the Pittsburgh Business Times to discuss her experiences working on environmental issues in Pennsylvania, her ambitions for the Ohio River Valley Institute, and her love of the outdoors. 

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Baker, Boettner: Manchin May Want to Stop Digging (Charleston Gazette-Mail) 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working hard to protect the interests of coal, even as the country is rapidly turning away from the fossil fuel. Clean energy is quickly becoming price-competitive, and there are virtually certain to be further price declines in the future, as well as reductions in the cost of energy storage. As clean energy supplants the position of coal in the national energy market, West Virginia stands to gain hugely from the provisions in the Build Back Better plan that look to modernize physical infrastructure and get the economy on a clean energy path. 

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Should Oil and Gas Companies Be Exempt from Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Waste Laws? (Environmental Health News) 

In the wake of growing concerns about potential cancer risk associated with radioactive oil and gas waste, community advocates and some policymakers in Pennsylvania are trying to close loopholes at the state level—while also trying to prevent neighboring states from bearing the burden as a result. Polling data from the Ohio River Valley Institute shows that 69% of Pennsylvania voters believe that fracking fluids should be subject to the state’s hazardous waste regulations, and 82% support requiring safer transport of hazardous waste from fracking sites.

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Join RGGI to support Pennsylvania’s Coal Plant Communities (Pocono Record) 

With hard work and consensus building at the local level, activities funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) can support Pennsylvania’s coal plant communities, including direct financing for site demolition, repurposing, or cleanup; replacing local tax revenues to support schools and municipalities; supplemental funding for state job training and placement for displaced workers; and assistance for local community planning, project development and support for public-private community investment strategies, Research Fellow J. Joseph Cullen writes. 

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What We’re Reading

Key to Biden’s Climate Agenda Likely to Be Cut Because of Manchin Opposition (New York Times)

Acid Mine Drainage Challenge Q&A with Joe Pizarchik (Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center)

Pennsylvania RGGI Opponents Mount Tense Last Stand (Politico)

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