OPINION: Carbon capture and sequestration is no con

It is so disappointing to read the attacks on the governor in the ADN on Jan. 27 entitled “Don’t fall for Dunleavy’s carbon con” when what was presented were mostly innuendoes and popular catchphrases. Reference to activities as “cons,” referring to payoffs from polluters and concern for environmental injustice demonstrated a great lack of knowledge of the issues at hand, in particular the production of and distribution of energy. Just what is environmental injustice? Just because oil and gas producers are in the business does not imply payoffs; they are responding to market demand from us, the citizens.

One recently passed funding measure from the Biden administration was directed to developing eight hydrogen hubs across the nation. In order to produce enough hydrogen in a hurry to actually pipe hydrogen from hydrogen hubs implies the production of gray hydrogen, which would be produced from natural gas. The natural next step for this to work is to provide carbon capture and sequestration to provide an acceptably clean fuel for distribution. Alaska has been storing gas in the reservoirs for decades, so this is nothing new. It has worked in the past and there is no reason it would not continue to work. Some studies have been done that show that show earthquakes up to magnitude 3 can occur, but not in all locations, nor all the time, so apparently not much to worry about. The result is that carbon capture and sequestration appears to be a practical and safe solution to help migrate Alaska into the hydrogen economy.

There are those who prefer to reduce carbon dioxide by direct air capture over developing new energy sources, whether clean and green or not. Many are skeptical of carbon capture and sequestration because it is a favored process of the environmental, social and corporate governance influencers. I consider this an opportunity which was presented that can help develop the hydrogen economy and, yes, help natural gas producers and Alaska. In my opinion, Gov. Mike Dunleavy was just taking advantage of the opportunity at hand for a probable economic benefit to the state. The legislation put forward was to ensure the carbon capture and sequestration would be permitted by law.

The authors of the commentary attacking Dunleavy’s plan referred to oil and gas producers as polluters, and wrote that Alaska is warming four times as fast as the global average. My reading provides that Alaska is warming twice as fast as the global average, and that doesn’t bother me much at all. Considering that it took Alaska awhile during the warming from the Little Ice Age to melt the ice and snow each summer early enough to actually start to produce measurable warming, it looks like we just caught up with the globe. And if it weren’t for the oil and gas producers, we would have a much more polluted planet than we have now. We used to burn wood to cook and heat all over Alaska.

As I have been stating in my commentaries since 2016, we’ll need natural gas and diesel fuel for a long time (probably past 2050), as the technologies are still not fully developed to allow us to get to net zero anytime soon, or even move strongly in that direction. There is a lot of adaptation for the power systems (grids) that will require some expensive (some not yet identified) modifications that depend on some yet undeveloped products and technologies. We’re still in need of long-term energy storage. Wind and solar won’t get us there without a lot of help. Mandates are not enough to make our systems be green. We need methods and ideas for how to get there from here, not just demands to get it done. Commentaries that point out problems should also offer solutions. If we want to complain, we also need to find ways to fix, be a problem solver.

Personally I think it is a bad idea to focus on the carbon dioxide instead of on how to actually put together power systems that will have distributed energy resources, short-term energy storage and long-term (six months or more) energy storage that will provide reliability and resilience. For now, Gov. Dunleavy’s efforts appear to be working with the climate crisis-biased appropriations from the federal government to create the best opportunities for Alaska and Alaskans, while keeping the oil and gas economy going so Alaska can afford to make the changes necessary to adopt and adapt various renewable energy sources into our power systems. Once we get the hydrogen production, storage and transport worked out, the hydrogen economy can benefit the Railbelt and remote communities in ways that are tailored for each so that Alaska can have the cheapest energy possible. This looks like a good time to get behind the governor with support. Whether we ever get to net zero does not matter, but that we develop some energy and power systems that are tailored for each community to provide cheap energy does matter.

Robert Seitz, P.E., is an electrical engineer, an Alaska resident for more than 80 years, and a supporter of innovation, ingenuity and hard work.

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