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Do Climate Bill’s Emissions Reductions Really Add Up?

IRA modeling forecasts massive increase in carbon capture
WASHINGTON -

The emissions reductions being predicted under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), scheduled for a House vote tomorrow, rely in part on highly dubious predictions about the effectiveness of carbon capture, and the notion that the industry would see massive growth in just a matter of months.

The most popular analysis of the legislation, produced by Princeton University’s REPEAT Project, estimates that climate emissions will be reduced by 42 percent from 2005 levels (this is compared to 27% reductions with no new policies).

That prediction rests in part on a massive, nearly immediate growth in carbon capture, an industry plagued by decades of massive failures. The REPEAT analysis acknowledges that carbon capture is currently responsible for almost no emissions reductions. Somehow, captured carbon would go from nearly zero to 50 megatons by 2024, mostly from coal plants.

There is no explanation for how this will happen, but the report relies on carbon capture to continue an astonishing growth pattern, reaching 200 million tons per year by 2030. Overall, the REPEAT model relies on carbon capture to deliver “roughly one-sixth to one-fifth” of total emissions cuts.

The legislation also relies on electric vehicle tax credits for vehicles that do not currently exist, but nonetheless account for a substantial portion of the overall emissions reductions. The only serious penalty directed at the oil and gas industry is a methane fee that is intended to reduce flares and leaks. But recent reporting shows that it exempts most of the culprits.

Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh released the following statement:

“Contrary to what many might think, the Inflation Reduction Act does not require pollution reductions – it relies on market forces to create clean energy, and it imagines that carbon capture will be effective and widely adopted. This is a highly dubious assumption; carbon capture has been largely an exercise in expensive failure, and there is no reason to think that additional taxpayer subsidies will change that.

“This does not account for the so-called ‘side deal’ that is still to be determined, which explicitly aims to fast track fossil fuel projects. Encouraging new fossil fuel development will create additional air and water pollution in the frontline communities that already bear the burdens of energy industry exploitation.

“The Inflation Reduction Act does not deliver mandates to cut pollution; it creates incentives that may drive up private investment, and it delivers billions to fossil fuel corporations based on the notion that their climate pollution can be somehow captured. This is a dangerous bet.”

“This law should be considered a starting point for more powerful measures that stop new fossil fuel developments, and put substantial public resources into genuine forms of clean, renewable energy.”

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Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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