GAO Report: Carbon Capture Increases Power Costs up to 80%

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today found that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) schemes favored by Democrats under their proposed cap and trade national energy tax boondoggle would increase electricity costs, reduce electricity output and increase water consumption.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking Republican of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), released the GAO today covering the status, cost, and reliability of current CCS technology for coal-fired power plants.  

The release states, “Based on GAO’s survey of stakeholders, including utilities and state regulators, current CCS technology would increase electricity costs by 30 to 80 percent, reduce electricity output between 15 and 32 percent, and increase water consumption at power plants.”

These findings do not bode well for Democrats pushing the cap and trade national energy tax scheme.

More highlights from the GAO report:

  –  “While DOE, electric industry groups, and other stakeholders have set goals to commercially deploy CCS in coal plants in the next 10 to 15 years, they acknowledge that these goals present significant challenges. In particular, they have highlighted the large costs to install and operate current CCS technologies.  In 2007, DOE estimated the cost to install current CCS technologies was 85 percent higher for plants with post-combustion capture and was 36 percent higher for pre-combustion capture at IGCC plants, compared to comparable plants without CCS.”

  –  “Similarly, officials from one state public utility commission reported that they considered CCS immature and were unlikely to approve cost recovery for such a project in the foreseeable future.”

  –  “DOE has estimated that efficiency improvements to the existing coal fleet could reduce CO2 emissions by 100 million tons annually, or about a 5 to 10 percent reduction in overall emissions from these plants.”
  –  “An ultra-supercritical plant emits about one-third less CO2 than an average plant in the United States.”

“I support advancing cleaner, more efficient technologies to produce electricity, but we must recognize that CCS technology is far from mature,” Inhofe said of the new GAO findings. “Attempts to force it into existence through a massive cap-and-trade tax, hoping it will work at a reasonable cost without an appropriate legal framework and without the infrastructure needed to support it — that’s simply irresponsible public policy that will burden consumers with higher electricity costs and threaten America’s energy security.”  

"GAO’s report also shows that lawsuits and regulatory barriers are preventing the realization of significant gains in efficiency at existing power plants.  What’s more, GAO notes that new, clean, ‘ultra-supercritical’ coal-fired power plants can reduce CO2 emissions by 33 percent relative to the average coal plant.  Yet environmentalists, and the Obama Administration, have made the conscious decision to block their construction.  This is rich in irony: it’s a policy blocking environmental progress, economic growth, and the job creation the Administration is hoping for,” Inhofe said.

Voinovich also favors policy that would create incentives for clean energy technology  “without the huge societal costs that would be incurred by ‘pricing’ or taxing carbon.”

“This study underscores my concerns with attempts to impose severe near-term reductions in CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Simply put, the technology doesn’t exist to meet these mandates while maintaining an affordable and reliable base of electric power,” Voinovich said.  

You can find the entire GAO report online here.