Carbon capture projects withering

WASHINGTON — One of the best ways to make deep cuts in the pollution from fossil fuels that is warming the planet is to capture emissions from factories and power plants and bury them deep in the Earth, but the world's industrialized democracies are spending "nowhere near" the money needed to get the first carbon-capture projects started, the International Energy Agency reported Monday.

The United States and other G-8 nations should spend $20 billion during the next decade to add the technology at 20 large-scale demonstration projects, to work out problems and cut risks, the IEA said.

It argued that the work is urgently needed because the world is expected to rely on increasing amounts of coal, oil and gas during the decades ahead, and emissions will grow 130 percent by 2050 under current conditions. In contrast, there's strong international agreement that emissions must be cut in half or more by 2050 to prevent temperature increases that could bring dangerous long-term climate disruption.

The presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama support federal spending for carbon capture and demonstration. Both also have committees dedicated to supporting the continued use of coal, the source of half the nation's electricity and a source of jobs in swing states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The IEA, which promotes cooperation on energy policy among the United States and 27 other member countries, said that government support was needed in the early stages because carbon capture and storage reduced a plant's efficiency and added to its costs. Private financial investment also is crucial, it said.

There are four demonstration projects under way for carbon capture and storage, none of them in the United States and none at a coal-fired power plant. Two of the projects are Norwegian, one is in Canada and another is in Algeria.

Most of the world's leading industrial countries have programs to promote the commercial use of carbon capture and storage. But the report says that costs have increased significantly during the past five years, and many projects have been canceled or scaled back.

The U.S. Department of Energy pulled the plug in January on FutureGen, a planned $1.5 billion joint investment of government and industry, because the costs ran higher than expected.