Carbon capture technology is like a half-baked web tool, according to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt: in need of some “debugging.” The chief of the search engine giant made the comments at Google’s headquarters this morning, where he interviewed Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Chu, who was […]

chu-schmidt-googCarbon capture technology is like a half-baked web tool, according to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt: in need of some “debugging.” The chief of the search engine giant made the comments at Google’s headquarters this morning, where he interviewed Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Chu, who was visiting the Googleplex to talk about today’s ARPA-E funding announcements, responded by saying that while today’s carbon capture tech remains much too expensive for broad deployment, a relatively bug-free and affordable system — made up of dozens of different technologies — is not out of reach.

Chu has called for focus on (and investment in) carbon capture before, telling an audience of energy ministers at the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum earlier this month that an “aggressive timeline” for developing the technology is needed to address climate change. At that event, in London, he said the tech needs to be ready for “widespread, affordable deployment” within 8-10 years.

This morning Chu said that carbon capture and storage technology as it exists today would increase the cost of generating energy from coal by about 80 percent. “That is too high,” he said. “We have a road map of how to get down to 20-25 percent, which is tolerable.”

Among the possible routes to that goal, he said, are “some really new, high-risk ideas.” The ARPA-E program, designed to fund exactly those kinds of ideas through crucial phases of development, is supporting five carbon capture projects in the first round of 37 awards announced today.

In the long run, however, Chu expects many more technologies to find a niche in a carbon capture boom. Asked if he sees a role for “carbon recycling,” or if emissions captured from power plants will necessarily be buried underground, Chu gave a nod to algae-based solutions. “There are strains of algae being bred” that thrive with exposure to carbon dioxide. Ultimately, he said, “We don’t know what’s really going to take hold. But we do know that several dozen things need to happen.”

As analyst Mark Bunger, who heads up Lux Research’s Biosciences division, told us recently, algae fuel developers — a fertile area for entrepreneurial activity these days — could gain new interest from investors and potential buyers who see the international carbon capture buildout as proof that there’s a market for recycling the carbon emissions from power plants.

According to Chu, the benefits could go both ways, with “economic use” of carbon dioxide helping to promote deployment of carbon capture technology more quickly.

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  1. Green Ink: The Climate Bill, Smart Grid, Clean Coal, and Chinese Cars – Environmental Capital – WSJ Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    [...] [...]

  2. Can Algae do it al? There will need to be a variety of technology to take care of such a large and ongoing problem. Mantra Venture Group at


    Has a patented ERC that turns carbon-dioxide to formate. There are many applications for this chemical.

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  3. Who wants to wait 8 to 10 years “for widespread affordable deployment” of a “half baked” solution to a pressing global issue?
    Mantra Venture Group (MVTG) has a proprietary carbon recycling technology entitled Electroreduction of Carbon Dioxide Technology (ERC). ERC converts CO2 into valuable chemicals such as formic acid, formate salts, oxalic acid and methanol and the company is aggresively pursuing agreements with industrial giants to commercialize this technology NOW… not 8 years from now! Go to http://www.bullzano.com to download a free report on the company

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  4. Mantra has had this technology for a while to convert co2 to formic acid, they will be returning next week to korea where they have no sites for carbon storage. Hey wake up all the money spent on feasability studies and there is no safe place to store co2 so lets apply this wonderful erc technology.

  5. DOE Doles Out Close to $1B for Commercial-scale Carbon Capture Friday, December 4, 2009

    [...] while carbon capture tech may remain “in Beta,” like a half-baked web tool (as Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it recently), Secretary of Energy Steven Chu says it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle for addressing [...]

  6. Carbon Capture and Sequestration Could Reach $221B by 2030: Study Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    [...] Schmidt has likened the current state of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology to a half-baked web tool in need of debugging, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t powerful forces driving the growth of the CCS industry. [...]

  7. Report: Carbon Price Needs to Be at $40 for Commercial CCS Monday, January 4, 2010

    [...] This morning carbon futures are trading around €13 ($18.75), not even reaching half of what ABI says is needed for a commercial CCS. So, if the carbon markets hover around this price, CCS won’t be moving into commercialization anytime soon, as many have predicted. [...]

  8. Peabody Energy Pours $15M Into Carbon Recycler Calera Monday, March 22, 2010

    [...] Calera currently has a demonstration project at a natural gas-fueled power plant near Moss Landing, Calif., but like the rest of the carbon capture and sequestration sector, it has yet to be proven at commercial scale. As Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it in a talk with Department of Energy chief Steven Chu, carbon capture remains in the beta phase and still needs some “debugging.” [...]

  9. Duke Energy: Cleaning Up Coal Even Pricier Than Expected Friday, April 16, 2010

    [...] the tech needs to be ready for “widespread, affordable deployment” — somewhere in the range of 20-25 percent above today’s coal costs — within a decade, Chu said in an event hosted by Google last year. Duke’s rising cost [...]

  10. Khosla-Backed Calera Scoops Up $19M for Carbon Recycling Thursday, July 22, 2010

    [...] as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has commented, “economic use” of carbon dioxide in revenue-generating products could help accelerate [...]

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