Proposed Policy Reforms
Implement the Energy Act of 2020
Congress made sweeping, bipartisan updates to the Department of Energy’s clean energy research and development programs at the end of 2020. Among them were new and ambitious carbon capture and removal R&D programs. Fully implementing these programs would result in several new carbon capture projects across power plants and heavy industry.
Source: National Carbon Capture Center
Carbon capture is a critical technology that can reduce emissions from power plants, industrial facilities (e.g. cement and steel), and even straight from the atmosphere. Further development will drive new concepts and technologies, such as the zero-emission fossil energy NET Power Plant. Carbon removal straight from the atmosphere, or Direct Air Capture (DAC), is a technology that has garnered significant support over the last two years and especially through the Energy Act of 2020 which supports commercialization efforts. This will aid companies, such as Carbon Engineering, to deploy the world’s largest mechanical carbon removal facility in the US.
Countries around the world are working to commercialize carbon capture technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is a widely recognized leader, scaling carbon capture technologies across more than two decades. The most prominent test facility in the United States is a public-private partnership between the DOE and companies including Southern Company and ExxonMobil.3
Large scale carbon capture facilities in operation and planned (through 2024)
Historically, basic government research has reaped dividends for our economy. In the case of natural gas, taxpayers are still benefiting from government R&D into hydraulic fracturing technologies to the tune of billions of dollars each year. Government-supported research developed the basic mining bits, 3D imaging and liquids that were instrumental in the commercialization of hydraulic fracturing technologies.
Carbon capture holds similar promise: a ClearPath study with the Carbon Utilization Research Council found that dozens of large power plants with carbon capture could be economically deployed by 2040, assuming DOE cost goals were met.
Many carbon capture technologies in the development pipeline have been successful at the small bench scale and have yet to scale up. Demonstrating at larger scales is difficult for the private sector to overcome because it often requires tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Private-public cost shares are needed to expeditiously prove first-of-a-kind technologies to facilitate commercial guarantees and increase investment community confidence.