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Good money after bad, the U.S. continues investing in failed ‘carbon capture’ technology

Despite carbon capture and storage’s diminishing returns, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law devoted $12 billion to the technology, building off of copious prior investments. Ivanova notes that $5 billion was earmarked for CCS as part of the Energy Act of 2020. And, from 2010 to 2019, Congress provided $7.3 billion in appropriation funds to the Department of Energy for carbon capture-related research and development. Old habits like relying on fossil fuels certainly die hard, and in politics and government especially there’s a pressure to stay the course even when all evidence points to the contrary. Ivanova points out other reasons why, above the financial cost, CCS simply isn’t worth the trouble. A lot of the emissions that are captured and stored are then used by oil companies. “The vast majority of [captured] carbon in this country, something like 96%, is sold back to oil companies to help them capture more oil,” Greenpeace’s John Noel told Ivanova.

Using captured carbon so frequently has incentivized oil companies to tout CCS as its latest greenwashed scheme while also profiting as they continue their damaging practices. Exxon has pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars from tax credits while pushing back against accountability requirements like submitting monitoring plans to the EPA.

Noel, who’s been an outspoken critic about Exxon’s carbon capture practices, had this to say in 2020 when interviewed by Inside Climate News about what captured carbon is typically used for: “This is how the oil industry continues to win. They get in the weeds, they have access and influence that the normal public doesn’t, and they’re able to manipulate the tax process and the regulatory process and manipulate it in their favor. And that’s been happening since the first oil well.” 

We shouldn’t let history repeat itself when it comes to combating climate change. CCS is not the answer and neither is any further development into prolonging the oil and gas industry’s life. It’s time to truly look toward the future and abandon something so antiquated—one that has never been worth it and never will be.



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