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 McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit White House puts together climate finance strategy 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 Huffman Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Biden leaves meeting saying 'it doesn't matter' when bill is passed Democratic lawmaker calls 'live-leaker' a schmuck and a coward 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.