Saturday, September 23, 2023

The US fossil fuel research agency has a radical new mission: to clean up the mess

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Shreya Christina
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Now it is responsible for helping to clean up the industry.

In July, the agency, which has about 600 employees and a budget of about $900 million, added “and Carbon Management” to its name, signifying an important part of its new mission: to help develop the technology and build an industry that supports the release can prevent carbon dioxide from power plants and factories, suck it out of the air, transport it and store it permanently.

The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) continues to operate a research division focused on oil, gas and coal production. But it’s now called the Office of Resource Sustainability, and its central job is to minimize the impacts of producing those fossil fuels, said Jennifer Wilcox, a carbon removal researcher who started the Biden administration with the office came. She is now deputy assistant secretary of FECM, overseeing both the research and development departments, along with Brad Crabtree, the deputy secretary of the office.

FECM’s efforts will be boosted by a series of recent federal laws, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which significantly increases tax subsidies for carbon capture, removal and storage. The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into law in August, authorize (but not actually appropriate) $1 billion for carbon removal research and development at FECM. Most notably, though, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Biden passed in late 2021 will spend about $12 billion on carbon capture and removal, including pipelines and storage facilities.

The FECM will play a key role in determining where much of the money goes.

Jennifer Wilcox, a leading researcher in carbon removal, is the chief deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

After the passing of the infrastructure law, the Department of Energy announced a $2.5 billion fee investment to accelerate and validate ways to safely store carbon dioxide in underground formations, as well as $3.5 billion in funding for pilot and demonstration projects aimed at preventing nearly all carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants and industrial plants , such as those for the production of cement, pulp and paper, and iron and steel. It has also progressed with a $3.5 Billion Program to develop four regional hubs for direct air capture projects, an effort to develop factories that can suck at least 1 million tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year.

Last week I spoke to Wilcox and Noah DeichDeputy Assistant Secretary for Carbon Management within FECM, on the new direction at the Department of Energy, where the billions of dollars will be put to work, and how they are striving to address concerns about carbon capture and the ongoing damage from fossil fuels.

‘We must invest today’

Wilcox and Deich face a tricky balancing act.

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