Power plant rule misses ‘opportunity’ for carbon capture — algae industry

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Obama administration is neglecting a key strategy that could help energy companies comply with its proposed greenhouse gas rule, the algae industry said today.

At issue is the absence of carbon capture and reuse technologies among the rule’s strategies for existing power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The long-awaited rule released this morning would not create incentives for power plants to use new technologies that capture waste carbon and feed it to algae to produce fuels and high-value products, the Algae Biomass Organization said.

There are several companies currently building facilities to feed waste carbon from industrial processes into various algae technologies. Including those technologies would potentially allow power plants falling under the purview of the rule to offset the costs of compliance.

Algae technologies could help turn carbon dioxide “into valuable commodities for trillion dollar industries, thus turning a problem — the high cost of compliance — into an opportunity,” the association said in a statement.

The proposal rolled out this morning by U.S. EPA would require existing power plants to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030 compared with a 2005 base line. Taking into account the utility sector’s emissions reductions over the last decade, the proposal would require existing power plants to reduce their emissions by a remaining 17 percent by 2030. It gives states flexibility in meeting reduction targets (Greenwire, June 2).

EPA will take comments on the rule for 120 days, and the Algae Biomass Organization said it would push the agency to include carbon capture and utilization as an approved carbon mitigation strategy. The organization has previously advocated that the agency also include the strategy in its proposed greenhouse gas rule for new power plants (ClimateWire, Oct. 24, 2013).

Other biofuels industries today said that the Obama administration’s carbon proposal represented a “disconnect.”

They slammed the administration for proposing, on one hand, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector and, on the other, proposing to roll back the nation’s mandates for the use of biofuel that could cut greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA last November proposed a 16 percent reduction in overall renewable fuel use for this year, compared with the levels set by the 2007 statute that created the renewable fuel standard.

“It is puzzling why the administration would push forward with this while backing off of the RFS,” Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, said today. “The truth is we need to focus on both the transportation and electricity sectors.”