NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where To Put CO2

June 26, 2001

Scientists are experimenting with the possibility of storing carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas implicated in global warming, underground or undersea.

CO2 is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. If cost-effective technologies can be developed to remove it at the source of emissions, there are places where it could be stored, or sequestered, according to experts.

  • Burning of fossil fuels currently releases about 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, of which about a third, or 25 million tons a day, is absorbed by the oceans.
  • Geologic formations from which oil and natural gas have been extracted probably offer enough space to put away the CO2 from a few decades of fossil fuel burning worldwide.
  • Deep saline aquifers and unminable coal deposits might hold a few centuries worth.
  • And the deep oceans could potentially store a trillion tons or more.

However, extracting or scrubbing CO2 at the source -- such as the smokestacks of electric powerplants -- is currently too expensive. The Department of Energy has set $2.75 as a reasonable cost for storing a ton of carbon dioxide. Current technologies cost 15 to 20 times as much.

Source: Kenneth Chang, "A New Strategy to Help Capture Greenhouse Gas," New York Times, June 17, 2001.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues