The Environmental Protection Agency's new rules on carbon emissions make carbon capture and storage a make-or-break technology for the coal industry. Ultimately, the fate of the technology and the coal industry lies with market forces, not technical know-how.
The rules are most relevant for the coal industry, whose only hope for compliance rests on the fate of a promising, but expensive and early-stage technology: carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Finding a way to capture and store power plant carbon emissions underground on a commercial scale isn't exactly easy. But the real challenge comes not in technical innovation, but in finding market demand.
"The technology [is] not rocket science," said Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer who specializes in CCS technologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative in Cambridge, Mass. "A lot has been around for a long time and used in other fields. It works; it’s just a matter of setting up the right incentives to bring it into the marketplace."