The former White House counsel to George H.W. Bush and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union under George W. Bush, weighs in on the new EPA Emissions Standards. His thought provoking Op Ed considers prematurely enforcing mandates before competitive research has been completed or projects have “turned on”. Read below to see why Boyden Gray talks Kemper.
Consider this: The EPA proposal will require new coal-fired power plants to use “carbon capture and storage technology” to store carbon dioxide emissions underground. Environmentalists have long touted it as the holy grail of climate change technology.
The law requires that the technology be commercially “demonstrated” before EPA can require it for new power plants. In this case, the EPA is relying on the Kemper Project in Mississippi, a next-generation project that would use coal more cleanly and would capture carbon dioxide emissions for tertiary recovery in nearby oil and gas drilling.
So far, so good. However, if EPA’s heavy but arguably premature reliance on Kemper’s technology fails technically, or legally, or both, it could stop all carbon capture research in its tracks, wasting the considerable investment made so far and poisoning everything in the technology pipeline.
Kemper is a very promising combination of technologies, to be sure, but for now the project is unfinished and thus no basis for the EPA’s assertion that the carbon capture technology is “commercially viable” and thus ready to be mandated for all new coal-fired power plants.
The most concerning notion is that Kemper is being fired at from all angles. From one side, this project is being touted as a national example, on another side it is recognized as a cutting edge energy project taking advantage of local resources, and on the other side, opponents say it must fail. Who should win? Gray explains:
Even more curious, while the Obama administration is hastily and prematurely trying to mandate the Kemper Project’s technology for all power plants, environmentalists are trying desperately to block Kemper from happening at all.
The nation must reject both of these extremes. The government must not turn Kemper into a new national mandate, but environmentalists also must not prevent us from seizing the unique opportunity that the Mississippi project offers. Thanks to its location near oil and gas drilling sites, Kemper is uniquely positioned to put captured carbon to good use. Its technology, if successfully commercialized, could be a model for future projects. The taxpayers already have invested in this project’s development, and we all deserve a return on that investment. But Kemper’s unique location and one-off Energy Department support mean that it cannot be duplicated immediately.
EPA’s proposal to use Kemper’s unique circumstances sets a bar that’s simply unreachable for most of the nation’s other coal-fired plants in the near term. Even EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged that Kemper may be too much of a one-off situation to act as an immediately available universal benchmark.
The EPA’s new requirements will prevent other power companies from investing in research or attempting their own market experiments with other technologies. The EPA’s proposed power plant regulations are a stark contrast even to the government’s fuel economy standards, which are being ramped up much more slowly, and which provide for midterm reviews and adjustments over time to assess how well things are going a decade out.
This is a tragedy. The U.S. can be “the Saudi Arabia” of coal, as Daniel Yergin, one of the nation’s leading energy analysts, recently explained in his widely read book, “The Quest.” The Kemper Project offers a unique opportunity to provide critical research on a pollution-free way to develop one of our nation’s most important resources. It would be a shame for environmentalists to block the project. And it would be no less a shame for the administration to use the relatively high cost of Kemper’s trailblazing technology as an excuse to prevent other companies from offering innovative new technologies of their own.
Read more in the Washington Post.