Political question of the day: Is Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) a realist who believes in serious climate action — or is he in fact just trying to undermine congressional action?
I gave him the benefit of the doubt last time. I said his well justified trashing of rip-offsets –“I am also opposed to the inclusion of international and domestic offsets” — wasn’t just a way to set up the climate bill for failure or at least for him to vote against the final bill (see “Sen. Corker agrees with Climate Progress on rip-offsets“)
But now he comes out swinging against coal with carbon capture and storage. Yes, he advances a realistic view (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“), but this technology is the darling of all moderates and conservatives who might conceivably vote for a climate bill. Is he badmouthing it to spook them?
Judge for yourself. E&E Daily has the details on what Corker said and on yet another of the many Achilles heels of CCS:
Efforts to capture or reduce carbon dioxide emissions could cause a spike in water consumption, experts told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday, voicing their support for legislation that would analyze water usage in energy projects.
S. 531, sponsored by Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), calls for a host of new assessments of the water usage in power, transportation fuels and other sectors. The bill also seeks to study the amount of energy consumed in water storage and delivery systems.
Carl Bauer, director of the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, warned that carbon capture technology in particular could have drastic implications for freshwater resources if it is not improved. He emphasized the need for additional research to advance carbon capture and water management technologies.
Lawmakers also expressed concern about the current water costs of carbon capture technology. “We can develop all the zero-carbon technologies we want, but without a reliable supply of water, they amount to nothing,” Murkowski said.
“I’m a skeptic,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “It seems like when donkeys fly they’ll do it on a commercial basis. Secondly, a lot of water is used in that process.”
Other efforts to reduce carbon emissions also present problems. Building additional nuclear power plants could increase water consumption, Bauer said, noting that they consume 40 percent more water than equivalent contemporary subcritical pulverized coal technology. Water cooling technology options can help decrease water use at nuclear plants, but often increase power costs.
On the other hand, adding near-commercial carbon capture and storage technology to pulverized coal plants in order to capture 90 percent of carbon emissions would more than double the amount of water used per unit of electricity generated.
“Advanced technology coal plants offer the opportunity to significantly reduce the consumptive footprint, with integrated gasification combined cycle technologies,” Bauer said.
Energy providers pushed for federal help and research dollars, suggesting Congress establish incentives that would decrease the capital cost of installing water management equipment.
Stephen Bolze, president and CEO of power and water for GE Energy, noted that industry is responsible for 45 percent of all water withdrawals in the United States and said he expects to see the United States’ energy demand double and water demand triple over the next 20 years. Faced with declining resources, he said industry, the federal government and public entities should work together to make reusing water cost-effective.
Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy at the University of Texas-Austin, and other witnesses endorsed the call for a national water census conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey that would take stock of the United States’ water resources. Provisions for a water census are contained in H.R. 1145, introduced by House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.).
Corker expressed strong support for a census, saying it would help cities and states as they worked toward a sustainable future.
So, does Corker want serious congressional action — or not?
Certainly I think everyone should be a realist about CCS — but then I spend a lot of time explaining why we don’t need CCS to meet near term or even medium-term targets (see “If Obama stops dirty coal, as he must, what will replace it? Part 1” and “Part 2: An intro to biomass cofiring“). I doubt Corker shares that view.
And yes, in a globally warmed world where fresh water becomes an increasingly scarce commodity, the last thing we want to do is design our energy system around water intensive processes:
- Must-have PPT: The “global-change-type drought” and the future of extreme weather
- Steven Chu: “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California”
- Warming Will Worsen Water Wars