BIOMASS Magazine - Biomass Producers Today, Carbon Kings Tomorrow
On Dec. 1, the U.S. EPA will close down the comment period for its proposed Clean Power Plan, the most significant environmental policy proposal in a generation. To control carbon dioxide (CO2), the agency places a significant emphasis on burying emissions underground (carbon capture and sequestration or CCS), but I believe it should equally encourage the beneficial reuse of carbon dioxide emissions (carbon capture and utilization, or CCU).
Just about every biomass company has CO2 emissions in its portfolio, whether producing CO2 in fermentation processes or consuming it by growing a crop. While the EPA’s new rule is mostly focused on coal plants, emissions are emissions, and the biomass industry could find a challenge in future regulations.
To ensure that the EPA is casting a wide net in approaches to reduce emissions, the Algae Biomass Organization and its members spent the past several months making the case for reusing CO2 emissions to manufacture valuable products. The mission: convince the EPA to explicitly endorse CCU technologies.
Regardless of the outcome from the EPA, the breadth of support we found has convinced me that the carbon kings of the future won't be the fossil fuel extractors of the past, they will be the innovators who build value from the waste gas streams the world is so desperate to dispose of.
To spark interest on this topic amongst the public, ABO started a White House “We the People” petition to encourage CCU. We were pleased to see support for CCU from 45 states and 215 cities, a true reflection of this idea’s geographical, ideological and demographic appeal.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., Congressional Algae Caucus co-chair, wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to clarify that using CCU technologies would be an option afforded states working to comply with Clean Power Plan rules. Peters noted that clarifying CCU’s role in emission reduction plans would stimulate further investment and innovation:
"Such affirmative recognition would provide states and sources of private capital with the confidence to invest in this promising CO2 solution while helping to create a market for CO2 that reduces the cost of compliance."
In a sign of growing awareness on Capitol Hill, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., visited ABO platinum member BioProcess Algae in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to learn how algae can be used to convert waste CO2 into valuable products at cost-competitive prices.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Manchin was excited to see firsthand a technology that could be adopted by coal plants in his home state. “As he left BioProcess Algae’s facilities, he turned and said, ‘This is what it's all about.’ "
You might say support for CCU needs to be stronger. I would agree, and we won't stop promoting the approach, regardless of how the EPA ultimately drafts its Clean Power Plan. If you are looking to take advantage of CCU technologies, or have a carbon-consuming approach of your own, I urge you to check out the alliance forming at www.recyclecarbon.org.
The reasonable idea that we can profitably reduce, reuse and recycle carbon could form the basis of a powerful political alliance that would help create a robust market for CO2 that reduces emissions, creates jobs and increases our domestic energy and food security.