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‘Useful Idiots’ Promote the Climate Scare by Supporting ‘Carbon Capture & Storage’


I would never have anticipated that I would actually agree with the Huffington Post on anything they write about climate change. But, when it comes to the serious dangers of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) on a massive scale from industrial activities and storing it underground, I have to agree with them. It is far too dangerous.

Suffice it to say for now that leakage of CO2 from pipelines is a serious threat that sickened dozens of people in the infamous 2020 Satartia, Mississippi, CO2 pipeline rupture. And that was minor in comparison with the natural COleak from Lake Nyos in northwestern Cameroon that killed 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock in 1986. That CO2 eruption triggered the sudden release of hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2, suffocating people and livestock within 16 miles of the lake. Risking lives by intentionally capturing and compressing CO2 and piping it hundreds of miles before pumping it underground in the hopes that it never leaks is irresponsible in the extreme.   

Large-scale CO2 capture and storage is also insane from an economic and engineering perspective.

If there is one thing U.S. Republicans have in common with their Conservative Party of Canada counterparts, it is the politically expedient but naïve hope that so-called “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) is the right solution to climate change. “Technology, not taxes” is their battle cry. Rather than simply explaining that there is no need to invest in any technology to reduce CO2 emissions since the gas is not a pollutant and is clearly not causing a climate crisis, they support the climate scare by advocating we capture emissions and store them underground. Much like the Soviets labeling our naïve peace activists as “useful idiots” during the Cold War, conservatives who promote CCS are the climate war’s useful idiots.

Useful idiots in the climate arena abound. For example, consider the May 3rd House natural resources committee hearing in Louisiana. While supporting a bill that proposed that any Louisiana “carbon capture” project could only store its “carbon” under the Gulf of Mexico, Rep. Sherman Mack, a Republican who serves Livingston Parish, said,

“I am not against carbon sequestration in Louisiana. It’s coming, so to be against it would be futile.”

The bill would effectively ban the storage of CO2 beneath state land or inland water bottoms. Buddy Mincey, Jr. (R-Denham Springs), and William “Bill” Wheat, Jr. (R-Ponchatoula) opposed the bill, indicating that they are apparently unconcerned about the serious safety implications.

Or how about U.S. House Rep. John Curtis of Utah, who formed the Conservative Climate Caucus with three other GOP congressmen? The caucus now includes 81 Republicans, just over one-third of the 222 GOP House members. Curtis put his useful idiot status on display when he implied support for CCS at the Columbia University Global Energy Summit,

“Imagine anybody who doesn’t think less emissions are better than more emissions. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think it would be great to have zero emissions.”

In other environments, Curtis is more direct in his support of CCS. For example, he strongly boosted CCS in his October 2021 interview with Inside Climate News.

Similarly, in response to the early 2020 environment plan issued by the Democrats, House Republicans issued proposals focusing on, you guessed it, so-called carbon capture and storage.

Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre takes a similar tack, answering a reporter’s question in a media scrum on March 29 about whether he supported CCS, “The carbon capture and storage, we’ve been favoring it for years.”

And, of course, rather than daring to simply tell the truth about the phantom climate scare, many in the energy industry, are also acting as useful idiots supporting a cause that, ultimately, would mean the end of their companies. Consider the January 31, 2022, press release from a consortium of 14 chemical companies, drillers, and refiners (e.g., Dow Inc. and Chevron Corp.), that pledged support for large-scale “carbon capture” from facilities in the Houston area, backing a group proposal that aims to capture and store about 50 million metric tons of CO2 per year by 2030. They said,

“If appropriate policies and regulations are put in place, CCS could help the United States and Houston reach net-zero goals while generating new jobs and protecting existing jobs that are important to Houston’s economy.”

That same month, Exxon, one of the partners in the consortium, announced a goal to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century and even created a wing of its business unit to advance CCS, hydrogen, and biofuels.

Last month, Exxon was forced to admit another mistake, in this case, the “greenwashing” of their enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations in which CO2 is pumped into oil wells to force oil out of otherwise depleted wells. Exxon shareholder and energy expert Steve Milloy compelled the company to admit that, contrary to their implications that their EOR operations result in more CO2 stored in the reservoir than is released when the oil is burned by the consumer; it does not offset emissions as implied/claimed. Milloy wrote on,

“I love oil companies. But I hate lying. Especially climate lying.”

Readers are encouraged to read Milloy’s important shareholder proposal to learn how this case unfolded. It is inspiring to see how climate realists like Milloy can fight back and win.

Finally, consider the Pathways Alliance. In “Why the world needs cleantech energy innovation like carbon capture and storage,” a January 26, 2023 article on the Canadian Energy Centre website, we read:

“Canada’s major oil sands producers see clean technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a solution. Through the Pathways Alliance, companies representing 95 per cent of oil sands production plan to use CCS and other technologies to reduce emissions by 22 megatonnes per year by 2030, on the way to net zero by 2050.

“This is really about all of us getting together and doing what we can to build a greener future,” says James Millar, CEO of the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Saskatchewan.

“You see CEOs from Cenovus, and Suncor and MEG and CNRL get together every Friday morning at 7 a.m. to figure out how to achieve the goal of reaching net zero by 2050. They’ve all committed to it.”

Useful idiots, indeed. If climate activists get their way, all oil sands extraction will end.

Engineer Steve Goreham, who will be my guest this weekend on The Other Side of the Story, demonstrates the huge mistake conservative politicians and industry are making in his May 2nd Master Resource blog article “The Practical Impossibility of Large-Scale Carbon Capture and Storage.” Goreham explains,

“Carbon capture and storage is very expensive. An example concerns plans for CCS in Wyoming, the leading US coal state. Wyoming mined 41 percent of US coal in 2020 and coal-fired plants produced about 85 percent of the state’s electricity. With abundant coal resources and good opportunities to store CO2 underground, Wyoming appeared to be an excellent candidate to use CCS. The state passed House Bill 200 in March 2020, directing utilities to produce 20 percent of electricity from coal plants fitted with CCS by 2030.

“In response to the statute, Rocky Mountain Power and Black Hills Energy, Wyoming’s two major power companies, analyzed alternatives for their operations and provided comments to the Wyoming Public Service Commission in March 2022. But the comments were not favorable for CCS. Black Hills Energy determined that adding CCS to two existing coal plants would cost an estimated $980 million, or three times the capital cost expended to build the plants. Rocky Mountain Power stated that adding CCS to its existing plants was “not economically feasible at this time.”

Goreham also explains the incredible volumes that CCS would have to remove from emissions globally to have a significant impact on world emissions. He concludes,

“Capturing, transporting, and storing CO2 from these processes would involve trillions of dollars and many decades of investment. The International Energy Agency calls for 9 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions to be captured and stored by 2050. Today we have a mix of 39 major and minor capture facilities in operation. The IEA estimates that 70 to 100 major capture facilities will need to come online each year until 2050 to achieve this goal.”

In other words, as Goreham implies, their goals are practically impossible.

Tune in next week to learn about “The Gassing of Satartia,” as Huffington Post aptly called it, the 1986 CO2 tragedy that hit the Cameroons and why the government’s plans for mass CCS is a disaster in the making.

Image: Technology Centre Mongstad


Tom Harris

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.