Carbon capture technologies are an essential part of efforts to reduce climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions. The captured carbon can be sequestered underground or it can be used to make products that would be made anyway. The advantage of using recycled CO2 is that it uses captured carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere and it sequesters them in products without generating additional greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide can be used as a raw material in a wide range of products including everything from concrete to car seats. It is even being used by soft drink manufacturers and it can also be used to make dry ice, fish food, and toothpaste. One potentially significant application is in water desalination.
CO2 is currently being used to extract oil from wells through a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Captured carbon can also be made into combustible fuel. A couple of years ago a company called Climeworks supplied Audi with captured CO2 that allowed the car company to develop what it called “e-diesel”, a liquid fuel made from water and CO2.
However, it must be emphasized that while carbon capture is an absolutely critical part of our fight against climate change, we need to tread cautiously when using it to make products, especially fuels that will release more CO2 into the atmosphere. Making combustible fuel out of CO2 is not sustainable. We will not be able to reduce atmospheric carbon with such an approach and consequently, we will not be able to achieve the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement (keeping temperatures within the upper threshold limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial norms).
We cannot afford to allow carbon capture to become an approach exploited by the fossil fuel industry to keep extracting and burning hydrocarbons. Sequestration is the key to making carbon capture work, using it to extract more oil or make more combustible fuel is neither sensible nor sustainable. If we are the least bit serious about drawing down emissions we cannot allow sequestered carbon to be used to extract or create more climate change-causing fuels.