The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Peter Hart,

Wasteful Carbon Capture Programs Lack Accountability, Transparency

Enviro group seeks documents in the wake of previous scandals

With billions of dollars in additional tax credits and grants going to the ‘carbon capture and sequestration’ (CCS) industry, a national environmental advocacy group is seeking to uncover basic information about how public funds are spent on technologies that have failed to produce meaningful results.

The national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch – which has been highly critical of carbon capture schemes – filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking to determine whether federal agencies have taken steps to address the serious problems of oversight and accountability that have been documented in recent years.

Massive new public investments in CCS were part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. The laws devote billions of dollars to support new CCS and direct air capture efforts, and increase the lucrative 45Q tax credit that is available to polluters for capturing or storing carbon dioxide emissions.

At present, the overwhelmingly majority of CCS projects are geared towards stimulating existing oil wells.

One of the Food & Water Watch FOIA requests sought information from the Internal Revenue Service related to the 45Q tax credits. While corporate identities have not historically been disclosed to the public, there are serious questions about whether the companies should be receiving these lucrative subsidies in the first place: In 2020, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration released an investigation of the 45Q program which found that the handful of companies that collected over $900 million in tax credits did not adequately account for the carbon they were capturing.

Food & Water Watch filed a FOIA request with the Treasury Department, seeking any information about the agency’s response to that investigation.

There are other major issues with CCS investments. A December 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report evaluated the Department of Energy’s $1.1 billion investment in CCS projects that included massive failures, and recommended that the department and lawmakers “take into account lessons learned from past projects in order to reduce risks to future projects' success and taxpayer funds.”

In light of those findings, Food & Water Watch sought records detailing any corrective actions that were undertaken at the Department of Energy.

“Even though Congress and the White House devote billions of dollars promoting carbon capture technology they claim is an essential part of their strategy to rein in climate chaos, we are left in the dark as to who gets the money, whether they are properly accounting for the captured carbon, and whether the government is doing anything differently after over a decade of failure,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “Carbon capture has been an expensive failure so far. Are we really going to hand billions of dollars to oil and gas companies to continue this charade? At the very least, taxpayers have a right to know where this money is going, and whether it is doing anything more than subsidizing oil drilling.”

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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