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White House will promote carbon capture technology in climate change fight

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Despite problems with its ‘cap and trade’ carbon market, California has made progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the six main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

The White House will begin promoting carbon capture and storage technology, two senior administration officials told McClatchy on Friday, in a rare acknowledgment from the Trump administration of the dangers of rising carbon dioxide emissions.

Their embrace of the emerging technology is part of a nascent strategy by the Trump administration to promote innovation over regulation as a means of fighting climate change, and comes amid a bipartisan call from senators for an increase in federal funding for carbon capture development.

Carbon capture is a technology that seeks to capture the majority of carbon-dioxide emissions produced by large fuel plants before they reach the atmosphere.

It has been referred to by its advocates as a “silver bullet” in the battle against global warming – and by detractors as an excuse from fossil fuel giants to justify the world’s continued reliance on natural gas.

One senior administration official said the president’s policy is a “realistic approach to promote energy innovation, including for nuclear energy, fossil fuels, and carbon capture technologies that allow us to provide affordable and reliable energy and a clean environment to our citizens.”

The Trump administration has not discounted science claiming that human-made CO2 emissions are impacting the atmosphere, the official added.

President Donald Trump has been criticized by environmental groups for rolling back climate change regulations since taking office, for his embrace of the fossil fuel industry and his withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, an international agreement that set a worldwide target for emissions reductions.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency scrapped an Obama-era policy requiring all newly constructed coal-fired power plants to incorporate carbon capture technology – an expensive hurdle for an industry competing against increasingly cheaper natural gases. The EPA decision was considered a wink and a nod to the coal community.

But some of the largest coal companies have recently come on board with the carbon capture technology. One energy company seeking to lower the cost of carbon capture, called Carbon Engineering, secured $68 million in private investments last month from fossil fuel giants such as Occidental, Chevron and BHP, a coal company.

“U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell 14 percent between 2005 and 2017, even as our economy has grown by 19 percent,” a second administration official said, confirming the administration’s endorsement of carbon capture technology. “This has been possible because of innovation and entrepreneurship that has allowed for the development and large-scale deployment of new, affordable, and cleaner technologies.”

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly questioned the science behind climate change, and since November has considered establishing a presidential committee on climate security that would scrutinize the findings of the national climate assessment, an interagency report forecasting grave peril for a warming planet.

“I think something’s happening,” Trump told CBS’ 60 Minutes in October. “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made.”

But the White House decision to embrace carbon capture technology amounts to an affirmation that carbon dioxide emissions, created by the burning of fossil fuels, are taking their toll.

A bipartisan group of 12 senators, including four Republicans, this week sent a letter to appropriators requesting the “highest possible levels” of federal funding for carbon capture development.

Also on Friday evening, John Barrasso of Wyoming, the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works who has led on this issue in Congress, scheduled a committee vote next week on a bill that would “support the use of carbon capture technology, including direct air capture.”

Republicans have grown increasingly vocal on the need for a climate change policy alternative to the Democrats’ Green New Deal, with allies of the president in both houses of Congress– Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in the Senate, and Matt Gaetz of Florida in the House– recently pushing legislation that characterizes the phenomenon as a national security threat.

Michael Wilner joined McClatchy as a White House correspondent in 2019. He previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post, where he led coverage of the Iran nuclear talks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the 2016 US presidential campaign. Wilner holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City.


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