Members of a Texas community are resisting a US$10-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that is promising carbon dioxide emissions reductions of “more than 90%” by banking on carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).
“Carbon capture is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole,” Bekah Hinojosa, a Gulf Coast campaign representative for the Sierra Club, told the Guardian. “The project itself is highly destructive in so many different ways and would still release a tremendous amount of toxic air pollution into our impoverished brown and Indigenous community.”
Houston-based LNG developer NextDecade plans to build its Rio Grande LNG project near the city of Brownsville, Texas. According to NextDecade—which describes itself as “a clean energy company” that “innovates more sustainable LNG and carbon capture solutions for a net-zero future”—CCS will make the project the “greenest LNG project in the world.”
But activists in the nearby community of Port Isabel aren’t buying these claims. They’re resisting the project to protect their community from air pollution, preserve local shrimping and tourism, and defend the unspoiled wetland habitats located where the facility will be built.
NextDecade proposes to capture more than five million tonnes per year of the carbon dioxide produced when natural gas (aka fossil gas) is supercooled and liquified for export. Rio Grande LNG will be the first and only LNG terminal in the United States to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 90%, the company says.
But critics say the supercooling process only produces 6% to 7% of the emissions associated with such projects, so CCS would reduce a mere fraction of the plant’s total climate impact. And the CCS industry is already facing stiff criticism from climate activists who say the technology has underperformed and overstated its impact, writes oilprice.com.
That hasn’t stopped fossil fuel companies from pushing CCS as a viable option for decarbonization. The technology also received the U.S. government’s support when the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act expanded the tax credit for storing carbon. Oil companies have formed the CCS+ Initiative to establish a carbon accounting framework that can be used to sell CCS carbon credits to other industries.
NextDecade has joined the CCS+ Initiative through its subsidiary NEXT Carbon and plans to use its revenue from carbon credits to finance Rio Grande LNG. But experts warn that “carbon credits should be used to finance absolute reductions in emissions—not add a green veneer to new fossil fuel production,” says the Guardian.
“CCS was always greenwash for oil and gas production,” said Polly Hemming, a carbon market specialist at the Australia Institute. “Carbon credits for CCS for oil and gas production is greenwash on top of the greenwash.”