If we're to decarbonize the economy and avoid catastrophic climate disruption, CO2 must - at least - be managed. What does that mean?
In simplest terms, until we can make the shift to renewable energy, CO2 must be dealt with - as a waste product, as a resource, or as an asset. Or most likely, as all three.
I've blogged previously on adding the U to CCS. The development of CO2 as a resource is one key to the future of carbon capture technology. Turning captured CO2 into an asset by making stuff with it (besides more oil and gas) and thereby creating revenue streams and profit potential will help to drive the technologies, costs savings, and economies of scale that are so necessary to capturing CO2 affordably and preventing it from entering the atmosphere and adding to history's largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment.
This blog post on carbon utilization by NRDC's George Peridas is a must-read. Peridas explains succinctly the concepts - and the hazards - involved in advancing carbon utilization and recycling technologies and businesses, and how those technologies must be evaluated.
Peridas also notes this report by Prize Capital, LLC on CO2 industry creation and commercialization. Many carbon utilization technologies are in some stage of development - see this excellent 2013 report from the California Institute for Energy and Environment. More are coming. But Peridas rightly points out that governments, companies, researchers, and investors should not lose focus on more "conventional" CCS, i.e. capturing carbon emissions and storing them permanently underground. As a practical matter, the immense amount of global carbon emissions can't all find a use, and inevitably most will have to be safely stored underground.
Can CO2 be commercialized? Can new industries be created that use CO2 as an asset? And can we make all of that happen - while storing the vast bulk of CO2 emissions - in time to save life as we know it?