On the issue of carbon geosequestration, I can only agree
Carl Sparre (January 20, Comments) when he calls it “immoral at best
and a scam at worst.” It may, on the face of it, seem like a
promising technology – capture stack CO2 emissions, sequester them
deep underground and consign climate change to the history books as nothing
more than a bump in the road to global industrial utopia. Have cake. Eat it.

There is a conviction on the part of many
governments worldwide that the antidote to climate change lies in stuffing the
earth’s crust with the noxious by-products of existing modes of energy
production (a method of which the increasingly loopy James Lovelock seems to
approve). The problem lies in making sure these stay buried. Can we say with
sufficient confidence that an apparently geologically appropriate reservoir
will sequester pressurised, injected CO2permanently? Balanced against our moral obligation to future
generations, we can’t.

Having hitched it’s wagon to “clean coal”
technology at the Asia-Pacific Partnership conference, our government would
probably counter that this is precisely why we need to throw much research
money at the problem. Yet, even assuming we can solve the practical hurdles,
retrofitting existing infrastructure to collect, transport and sequester CO2
is expected to be extremely expensive.

The risks
and costs of geo-sequestration outweigh the benefits – the money could be better spent. The government is pushing it as
the cornerstone of its policy. This is ridiculous. Even if we didn’t need to
worry about the earth burping it all back up in a thousand years, or leaking it
all back out gradually, it’s like a smoker avoiding lung cancer by
mainlining nicotine. The addiction to a dirty habit is the problem, and for many
reasons, including but not limited to emissions.

We would be better off prioritising the
development of a transitional, mixed energy profile (renewables and fossil
fuels) servicing a steeply diminished energy demand. Geo-sequestration might
play a role in offsetting the remaining emissions, but given its inherent risk
of failure combined with its expense, there is every indication that
bio-sequestration (a fancy word for growing new trees or not cutting existing
ones down) would be more effective.

The neat thing about renewable energy
sources is that they don’t leak CO2 (nor do healthy trees, for that
matter). Yet the current government’s attitude towards renewable energy has
been derisory at best, and at a policy level more aptly hostile, with the
predictable result that the industry has gone rapidly backwards.

Combined with the emphasis on
geo-sequestration in its (woefully inadequate) policy response to climate
change, this betrays just where the government’s loyalties truly lie.

At every turn, the only measures considered “viable” are those that allow the fossil fuel industry – which really should be
going backwards – to conduct business as usual.