Carbon Capture and Storage: Late Stage Capitalism and Inevitable Demise

As we near the point of no return, it's time to acknowledge our shortcomings within our climate change solutions.

November 26, 2022


We’re doomed for climate change.

New studies, committee findings, and reports all point toward a bleak future of rising oceans, decreasing food supply, and worsening natural disasters. These tragic circumstances are all caused by unregulated CO2 emissions by the fossil fuel industry. Limitless corporate greed is putting us on track for more than 2 degrees Celsius of warming–pushing us over the point of no return.

It’s fine, though. It’s fine. Capitalism is responsible for the reckless destruction of the environment for profit, but it’ll also innovate and create green tech and carbon capture solutions to solve the climate time bomb—right?

Unfortunately, no. Carbon sequestration won’t save the world—neither will capitalism innovate enough to solve it. It probably won’t even do enough to slow its effects.

Green Tech revolves mainly around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which pulls the carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere, reduces its warming impact, and stores that carbon somewhere else, far from the reaches of the mechanisms of warming. It’ll involve things like giant air filters that remove carbon dioxide from the air. Forget net zero—we’ll head for net negative by extracting all the existing CO2 in the air! It’ll be great—not only can we stop the effects of climate change but we could also revert it to pre-industrial levels!

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many reasons.

The reality is that CCS is more often than not a distraction towards true neutrality that appears to resolve warming but in fact only further entrenches fossil fuel dependence and consumption. ”

Some of the most supported CCS projects have either failed or are going to fail soon. A well-known example is the Petra Nova CCS project. Once the crowning jewel of green capitalism, it ended up severely underperforming and was subsequently shut down. Other similar projects have similarly failed. Filtering huge amounts of air may simply be too inefficient to be a feasible solution for climate change.

Secondly, CCS projects use an enormous amount of energy. It takes nearly another power plant to power the system. This energy is often derived from fossil fuel sources, meaning that the CCS efficiency gets drastically slashed. Making it even harder for CCS tech to accommodate the vast amounts of CO2 pumped into the air every day. 

Ultimately, the biggest failure of CCS is that it distracts from the true goal of net-zero emissions. Despite its inefficiencies and constraints, CCS is often portrayed by oil companies as the future of society and our golden ticket out of climate change. Sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, CCS creates a false sense of security toward emissions. It creates some sort of “carbon credit” to negate the impact of all of the emissions. However, it’s clear that CCS is simply too inefficient to “balance out” the emissions of CO2 emitters.

Companies, however, still use CCS as a “new frontier in technology” that “innovates out of the world’s problems” and promises “a better future” without climate change. They fail to mention the drastic difference between how much CO2 is emitted and how much CCS and other technologies can actually reduce that amount. The reality is that CCS is more often than not employed as a distraction towards true neutrality that appears to resolve warming but in fact only further entrenches fossil fuel dependence and consumption. 

The solution is to engage in regulation. Clearly, unchecked capitalism hasn’t led to any innovations that would actually solve many of the problems caused by human-induced warming. Once we disengage from the capitalist mindset of prioritizing the profits from cheap oil, we actually have a shot at resolving some of the impacts of global warming. Although it’s going to involve an enormous societal transition across nearly all industries and massive geopolitical shifts through skyrocketing demand for REMs, it’s going to work. Unlike the facade of Carbon Capture and Storage technology, regulation gives us a fighting chance. 

More likely than not, though, we’re going to die. The promise of green, capitalist innovation has led the world down a spiral of false hope. It might be too late now. The only source of green we’ll see in the future is the green of our dollar bills–we’ve destroyed our environment so that no more green can even grow.

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