Let’s Talk Legislation: The USE IT Act
Due in large part to a flourishing economy, carbon emissions in the U.S. increased for the first time in several years. While many will point to regulation as means to scale back environmental excesses in a growing economy, the more effective solution lies in fostering innovation and technology. Economic and environmental victories are not mutually exclusive, and by advancing carbon capture technology, we can prove it.
Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) provides yet another example of how effective the free market is at producing environmentally beneficial technology. CCS has the ability to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial processes. The technology, if properly advanced, has the potential to play a massive role in mitigating carbon emissions and climate change.
Despite bright prospects, carbon capture technology is held back by its significant costs and lack of sufficient infrastructure. Fortunately, a number of legislative initiatives previously passed and currently considered by Congress are designed to address these obstacles and propel carbon capture into mainstream markets.
In 2018, the FUTURE Act, which provides and extends tax credits for companies that install carbon capture technology in their facilities, passed with widespread bipartisan support. The law now plays an instrumental role in incentivizing investment in CCS and making it a more feasible option.
While the FUTURE Act provided a step in the right direction for carbon capture, CCS still lacks sufficient research and development funding and necessary infrastructure. Seeing this void, lawmakers introduced the USE IT Act, which recently passed the Senate as part of a larger defense bill.
The USE IT Act provides $50 million in support for research and development efforts into carbon capture and incentivizes cooperation among state and federal entities to develop pipelines and other infrastructure for transporting captured carbon to storage or use locations. If passed into law, this bill will help to build economies of scale for carbon capture, improve technologies, and drive down its costs. When combined with the FUTURE Act, the USE IT Act would create stronger and more accessible markets for this cutting-edge green technology.
Passing the USE IT Act in the House will help to ensure that carbon capture’s immense environmental and economic benefits are realized. A recent DOE report found that employing carbon capture technology in Colorado’s coal plants would reduce emissions by 25 percent more than the state’s recently implemented energy plan, which sets out to replace the coal plants with wind and solar facilities. Going the carbon capture route would also generate over $10 billion in carbon dioxide revenues for the state and create nearly 20,000 jobs.
While renewable energy provides a path forward for combating carbon emissions and climate change, a less discussed and potentially more promising approach is carbon capture. Expansions in CCS technology will enhance fossil fuel sustainability and alleviate the need to radically transform our energy portfolio in the near future. Transforming carbon capture into a mainstream technology will require significant efforts, but passing the USE IT Act into law will represent a big step in the right direction.