Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere contribute to climate change. One of the newest technologies to ease the problem is called carbon capture. It extracts the CO2 from its source before it enters the atmosphere and stashes it in the ground.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports this technology and reports 10 million metric tons of success. DOE announced in April that “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) projects have prevented a whole lot of pollution from entering the atmosphere — the equivalent of what 2 million gasoline-powered cars would emit in a year.
“The U.S. is taking the lead in showing the world CCS can work,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We have made the largest government investment in carbon capture and storage of any nation.”
DOE works in partnerships with more than 400 organizations and businesses across the United States and Canada.
The projects capture pollutants emitted by refineries, paper mills, and cement and chemical plants and prevent them from entering the atmosphere. Instead, the carbon is stored in geologic formations or, in some cases, piped elsewhere for another industrial use.
Moniz said the carbon storage methods are “indispensable” to U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Some partners have moved beyond identifying the best capture and storage methods and now work on using captured CO2 in products like fuel, plastics, cement and fertilizers.
Novomer, a Massachusetts-based company, is developing plastic materials made from 50 percent CO2 that “will sequester harmful greenhouse gases permanently from the environment,” according to the company website. The goal is lower-cost and more environmentally friendly substitutes for other products currently used in manufacturing.
Promoting and funding technological development for carbon capture is just one of many projects the United States is developing in its goal to reduce emissions as part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan.