$1 Trillion to CAP CO2 emissions?

$1,000,000,000,000: the cost of capping greenhouse gas emissions

PricewaterhouseCooper has released a study saying that it will cost roughly a trillion dollars to “cap” the emissions of CO2. These kind of numbers will clearly scare many policy-makers who are convinced that reducing CO2 emissions is incompatible with healthy economic growth.

Without plunging into the debate over global warming, let’s consider a scenario–if conservative policy-makers thought that CO2 emission reductions would lead to economic GROWTH, they would be enthusiastic about embracing the cause of CO2 reduction, because there would be profit to be made.

It’s like expecting water to flow uphill. So long as emission reduction is seen as economic reduction, politicians and policy-makers with rather short-term “risk horizons” will not change the way things are going now. But if energy solutions are brought forward that have lower capital and life-cycle costs that CO2-emitting energy sources, they will proceed in that direction.

Specifically, I am convinced that the thorium-fueled liquid-fluoride reactor, coupled with the triple-reheat helium gas turbine, offers the potential for huge reductions in initial capital costs, and even greater reductions in life-cycle costs. I cannot quantify these numbers to the level that I would like to, but I can look at a nuclear plant that requires a fraction of the metal, concrete, and complexity of a conventional power plant and be reasonably assured that it has lower capital costs. And I can examine a fuel cycle that is a fraction of the complexity of today’s nuclear fuel cycle, which already offers the lowest fuel costs of comparable generators, and reasonably believe that there is money to be saved there.

With money to be made through generating energy in ways that have essentially no CO2 emissions, we can then expect political “water” to flow “downhill” and changes to be made that lead to a future with far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than today.

And it won’t cost a trillion. Rather, it will make trillions.

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