10 November 2010

B.A.N.A.N.A Logic

I'm not sure where I first heard it, but the idea of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) taken to the extreme results in BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone). BANANA logic is on full display by the well-meaning but misguided folks at the Sierra Club in its campaign to halt experimental efforts to deploy carbon capture and storage off of the US East Coast:
Dear Friend,

New Jersey's coastal waters are in serious danger from a proposed coal project. Right now a Massachusetts company wants to build a coal energy and fertilizer plant here in NJ and bury carbon dioxide pollution under the sea floor. Sounds pretty crazy to me, how about you?

The coal plant, called PurGen, is proposed for Linden, NJ, where it would use an experimental technology to compress carbon dioxide waste. The waste would be pumped through a 138-mile pipeline and forced down into the seabed off the coast of Atlantic City…forever.

This unproven technology called carbon capture and sequestration has not been tested for "forever" or even long-term. This experiment would take place in the most densely populated region of the country. An accident could have disastrous effects on marine life, or worse. . .
One might question the Sierra Club's Catch-22 logic in invoking the untested nature of a technology as a reason to oppose its testing.

However, a more fundamental problem with the Sierra Club's stance can be found in the IEA's 2010 World Energy Outlook, which argues that coal power is going to expand in coming decades -- regardless of what happens in the US or even new energy and climate policies. The IEA further argues that CCS will have to be deployed to 75% of coal plants by 2035 if the world is going to be on target to reaching a 450 ppm stabilization target.

So if the Sierra Club is successful in slowing down CCS prototypes and experimentation, what will it get?  Plenty of coal plants with no CCS! Some victory.

If the Sierra Club really wants to move beyond coal, than rather than campaigning to halt innovation in technologies that it objects to, it should be actively trying to accelerate innovation in technologies that it approves of, with the goal of developing energy supply options that can displace coal over the longer term.  You can't beat something with nothing.  BANANA logic leaves you with exactly what you'd guess it would.