Ex-Obama EPA chief expresses skepticism on carbon capture

Ex-Obama EPA chief expresses skepticism on carbon capture
© Aaron Schwartz

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: EPA weakens power plant pollution rule | DOJ lets companies skip paying penalties during pandemic | Trump eyes plan to pay companies to keep crude in the ground Green groups sue after EPA suspends enforcement of pollution monitoring due to coronavirus Democrats slam EPA proposal not to tighten air quality standards MORE expressed doubts Wednesday over investing in carbon capture technology, saying that focus should instead be on limiting fossil fuel extraction. 

“There’s a lot of new creative thinking about [carbon capture and storage], but the thing we’re not looking at is the fact that you extract the fossil fuels itself is a decision point of emitting significant amounts of methane," McCarthy said.   

"These are challenges for communities both from a health perspective and a climate perspective,” she added. 

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Members of both parties have argued that carbon capture technology, which helps remove greenhouse gasses from pollution, will be key to any eventual legislative solution to climate change.

However, this technology is still developing. One way it's currently used is for oil recovery, which is criticized by some Democrats who don't want to see it used to extract fossil fuels. 

McCarthy, appearing before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, was responding to a question from Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Overnight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings MORE (D-Calif.) who said the technology has thus far largely been used to promote more recovery of oil.

"When we capture carbon only to use it to develop more oil that's burned without capture, that's not exactly a closed loop," Huffman said. 

“That is the only financially viable way that anyone has come up with, so you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul," responded McCarthy, who led the EPA from 2013 to 2017. 

A bipartisan bill aiming to increase federal funding for carbon capture development was introduced in the Senate last year

The legislation was aiming to address climate change without phasing out the use of fossil fuels.