Technology now in limited use removes about 90% of carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, AP reports, but energy experts say cost remains the chief obstacle to bringing the "clean coal" touted by President Donald Trump into the mainstream. They cite recent advances in applying the longstanding technology but say the US power sector needs bigger tax credits or other incentives to close the cost gap for using them. "What we have now is a public policy challenge, or call it a political challenge if you will, in that next phase, which is to deploy this technology more widely and bring the cost down, (which) requires a whole new set of policies that go beyond R&D to actual deployment incentives," says Brad Crabtree, vice president for fossil fuels at the Great Plains Institute.
The US has successfully cut other smokestack pollutants, including sulfur, nitrogen and mercury. But carbon dioxide is a bigger challenge because there is so much of it. Coal- and gas-fired electrical generators produce about 30% of CO2 from human activity. Other industries like cement, steel, and fertilizer manufacturing add another 20% to 25%. In Congress, bills that now have 64 bipartisan sponsors would raise carbon-capture tax credits from $10 or $20 per metric ton depending on use to $35 or $50. Advocates want it added to the current tax overhaul proposal. Even the Natural Resources Defense Council, while first advocating efficient energy use and switching to renewable sources, regards carbon capture as "a potentially useful tool in the climate protection toolbox."