Estimates show that by 2050, BECCS technologies could sequester 10 billion metric tons of industrial CO2 emissions annually worldwide. But according to the GCEP report, major technical and economic hurdles must be overcome, such as the relative inefficiency of biomass fuels and the high cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Financial incentives are needed to encourage private sector investment in CCS and BECCS, said Olivia Ricci of the University of Orlans in France. "To meet ambitious climate targets, a cost-effective policy would be to implement a carbon tax and to recycle the revenues to subsidize captured emissions from biomass," Ricci said. A carbon tax would put a price on CO2 emissions and increase the competitiveness of CCS, while an emission subsidy would encourage BECCS deployment, she added.
"We're going to be burning fossil fuels for many years to come," said Field, who also serves as director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford. "BECCS is one of the only proven technologies that uses fossil fuels and actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere."
Field and Milne also assessed the pros and cons of biochar a carbon-negative technology based on the same principal as BECCS.
Biochar is a plant byproduct similar to charcoal that can be made from lumber waste, dried corn stalks and other plant residues. Heating vegetation slowly without oxygen a process called pyrolysis produces carbon-rich chunks of biochar that can be placed in the soil as fertilizer. Like BECCS, the goal is to permanently lock carbon underground instead of letting CO2 re-enter the atmosphere as the plant decomposes.
One advantage of biochar is its simplicity, the authors said. Implementing biochar technology on a global scale could
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