Sunday 16 May 2021 | 07:25 | SYDNEY
Sunday 16 May 2021 | 07:25 | SYDNEY

Geosequestration: You'd better learn how to say it


Sam Roggeveen


20 November 2007 14:20

In my short interview with Lord Robert May, who delivered this year's Lowy Lecture on the global political challenge of climate change, I asked him about the risks of investing in geosequestration - storing CO2 underground that is captured from coal-fired powerplants. Could we spend a decade or more investigating this technology, I asked him, only to find out it doesn't work? He replied that 'all unproven technologies are uncertain, but that's how we got where we are...'

My question had a domestic political subtext: geosequestration is a major element of the Australian Government's climate change strategy, and I wanted to obliquely ask Lord May what he thought of the Government's priorities. His reply suggested cautious approval, based perhaps on the inevitability of coal having a large part in the world's energy future.

The 2007 edition of the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook confirms that this is the case. The FT's Martin Wolf summarises the report here, with an aside about the importance of geosequestration (referred to here as carbon-capture-and-storage):

Finally, we have global warming. Three points shine out on this. First, despite the blather, nothing effective has been done or yet seems likely to be done. Second, effective policy will require big changes in incentives across the globe, including, not least, in the large emerging economies. Third, dramatic changes in technology will also be required, the most important of which will be towards carbon-capture-and-storage at coal-fired power plants.

What is the bottom line? It is simple: commercial energy is the staff of our contemporary life. As demand for energy rises, nothing is more important than ensuring increased supply and efficient use, while curbing environmental damage. Today’s high prices are a start. Fundamental innovation and high prices on greenhouse gas emissions must follow.

Lord May wasn't exactly brimming with confidence that geosequestration will work. But as Martin Wolf points out, it had better.

Photo by Flickr user jimfrazier, used under a Creative Commons licence.