President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law contains $10 billion to sow the seeds for the creation of pipelines to capture, transport and store carbon emitted from coal and gas-fired power plants.
Critics say capturing carbon is expensive, risky, and based on largely unproven technology.
Sean O’Leary, senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, argued embarking on a plan to build carbon capture pipelines in West Virginia would double or triple the cost of generating electricity from the state’s coal-fired power plants.
“The problem is that carbon capture and sequestration technology is horrifically expensive,” O’Leary pointed out. “It’s an expense that we would have to pay for, through our taxes and/or our utility bills in some combination.”
According to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Ohio Valley pipeline network and three other carbon-capture hubs planned in other locations would cost more than $170 billion to construct.
Companies like ExxonMobil say carbon-capture technology is a key solution to the challenge of reaching net-zero emissions.
O’Leary countered wind, solar battery storage, and making energy-efficiency upgrades to insulation, ventilation and air conditioning would be a smarter choice for Mountain State communities.
“We could do it far less expensively than what’s being proposed in the form of a hydrogen and carbon capture hub,” O’Leary contended. “At the same time, it would do a much better job of greatly reducing emissions.”
O’Leary noted the Appalachian region has been dazzled before by the fracking boom of the mid-2000s, which promised hundreds of thousands of new jobs across more than 20 counties in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
“What we’ve seen repeatedly since the beginning of the natural gas boom, is that these visions are dangled before policymakers who give the industry subsidies and regulatory favors,” O’Leary recounted. “But we never see the visions come to fruition and never receive the benefits.”
According to a report by the Ohio Valley River Institute, jobs in the region at the peak of the natural gas boom increased by 1.6%, more than eight percentage points below the national average. More than 37,000 residents left those counties in the same period.