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Lost in the mix: will the technologies of carbon dioxide capture and storage provide us with a breathing space as we strive to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewables?

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Abstract

This paper explores concepts of carbon lock-in arising from the technologies of CO2 capture and storage (CCS). We examine the argument that CCS reduces carbon lock-in and the calls for a CCS ‘mandate’ and emission performance standards. We analyse the pros- and cons- of a low-carbon fossil fuel lock-in, arguing that lock-in per se is not the problem; it is rather the depth of lock-in which creates problems because deeper lock-in reduces flexibility and increases the ‘error cost’ (i.e. the cost of a decision which turns out to be based on incorrect understanding) and should be avoided. A set of technical and institutional indicators for measuring the flexibility of different technologies is then presented and applied to three technologies: a landfill gas power generator, a conventional nuclear power plant and a CCS plant under development in California. We conclude that these indicators are a useful way forward in assessing individual projects and that public authorities and other stakeholders might wish to employ some version of these indicators in their deliberations on the role of CCS.

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Shackley, S., Thompson, M. Lost in the mix: will the technologies of carbon dioxide capture and storage provide us with a breathing space as we strive to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewables?. Climatic Change 110, 101–121 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0071-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0071-3

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