Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has always had a rather bad press

Ethical Markets Resource Efficiency

Put up or shut up

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has always had a rather bad press. That’s probably because, unlike for example renewable energy, it does not produce anything. It only prevents something, namely CO2 from reaching the atmosphere.

Prevention, unfortunately, never gets much kudos from politicians or society in general. Problem is, you can’t see it. Preventing people from getting sick is surely better from any perspective than treating people who are sick, but politicians can’t score with hospitals that were not built and the medical industry can’t make money off them.

So it is with CCS. Policymakers are naturally reluctant to put billions of euros into CCS projects, when they can use that same money to do all kinds of nice things that are much more visible to voters.

Yet putting billions into CCS is exactly what is now being asked of them.

CCS in Europe is in a deep, deep hole. As our Brussels correspondent Sonja van Renssen writes in a new, enlightening piece of reporting-and-analysis, not a single major CCS project in Europe has had a positive final investment decision so far. Of the dozen projects touted only a few years ago, at best 2 or 3 still look viable.

Indeed, as Sonja makes clear, the stark truth is that CCS is just not going to get off the ground in Europe unless significant (additional) amounts of public money are sunk into it. And as the European Commission has already promised to do what it can, it is the governments of the Member States that have to come up with the cash. What is more, they have to do it now. If they do not support their national projects now, these will not get any EU support either. That will mean more or less the end of CCS in Europe. As one CCS expert puts it: “It’s decision time and it’s deal time.”

That’s the choice facing governments on CCS: put up or shut up.

So what is the wise course to take? Well, fact is, Europe is building new coal-fired power stations, it will continue to rely on gas-fired power stations, it is mostly closing down its nuclear industry and it wants to preserve its heavy industry. Green(peace) dreams notwithstanding, this means that probably the only way to significantly limit CO2 emissions, is to put the stuff into the ground. North America seems to have already up made its mind to do so, as Sonja writes. European politicians will have to make up their minds whether they want to follow the American example. They won’t get any votes for doing so – but they can perhaps get some guidance from Sonja’s inside story, which they – and you – can access by clicking here.

In addition, we have for you today a comment by our senior analyst Matthew Hulbert on the much talked-about takeover by Russian state oil company Rosneft of Russian oil producer TNK-BP, which was 50% owned by BP and 50% by a group of Russian oligarchs. Matthew tries to peer into the fog of this latest Russian energy war. If you want to know what he sees, you can read his article by clicking here.

15-16 November 2012 | Istanbul, Turkey

Atlantic Council Energy & Economic Summit

The Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit, now in its fourth year taking place 15-16 November in Istanbul, continues to grow in scope as the preeminent annual event on energy, politics, and business in the broader Black Sea and Caspian region; from Central Asia in the east to the Levant, the Balkans, and Central Europe in the west.