The Environmental Protection Agency is deadly serious about its new rules to cap emissions from coal-fired power plants — so much so that the agency is forcing plant operators to install technology that President Obama’s former top energy adviser warned could “kill.”
Fox News reports that former Energy Secretary Steven Chu once expressed safety concerns about carbon capture and storage technology that the EPA is requiring coal-fired power plants to install in order to comply with pending emissions limits.
Chu warned about the possible dangers of carbon capture technology in a 2007 talk sponsored by the Berkeley Lab in California. He argued that the technology could be dangerous and become subject to legal challenges.
Chu said that carbon in its initial state “as a big bubble of gas” might leak to the surface. However, he added that carbon was stable in the long-term.
“There would be people saying, ‘I don’t want this done in my backyard,’ because if the carbon dioxide ever does bubble to the surface it could actually kill people,” Chu said. “Ten percent carbon dioxide is lethal. And so that’s … one of the issues.”
The coal industry has challenged the feasibility of carbon capture technology, arguing that it’s not commercially viable. The process involves removing carbon dioxide from coal and redirecting it underground as a gas or a solid.
Fox News adds that at “low concentrations — such as that in the ordinary air that people breathe — carbon dioxide is not dangerous and is not flammable. But it is considered hazardous at high concentrations; if it displaces oxygen in a confined space, it can cause victims to suffocate.”
The Obama administration is adamant that the process will be improved as technology gets better and rules are put in place.
“The evidence is overwhelming and the science is clear,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told a congressional committee Wednesday. “The threat from climate change is real and urgent. The basic science behind climate change is simple. Carbon dioxide makes the Earth warmer, and we are admitting more and more of it into the atmosphere.”
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