U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in 2008, when he was governor of TexasEnlarge Photo
Last month, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry signed an agreement with Saudi Arabian officials to research "carbon capture" technology for fossil fuels, the Department of Energy announced.
Perry and Khalid Al Falih, the Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, signed a memorandum of understanding to "establish a framework for mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of clean fossil fuels and carbon management."
The announcement doesn't detail how much the two countries may spend to research the technology, which has also been promoted by the U.S. coal industry.
It says only that engineers and scientists from both countries would work together to further develop the relatively unproven technology.
Why unproven? Many experts are unclear if any carbon capture process would have a net effect of reducing carbon dioxide, because the gas is largely inert and would require energy to draw it out, as explained by Scientific American.
Capturing and storing large volumes of carbon dioxide would also require settling on long-term storage sites that could retain the gas for tens of thousands of years.
King Fahd Road in Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaEnlarge Photo
Money for research into possible solutions is still largely hard to come by and relatively small, according to the magazine.
Last year, the Energy Department offered up to $36 million in funding for projects to study several carbon capture processes.
What fruit any understanding between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia might bear in the future remains to be determined.
Given its ambiguous mission and potential costs, the costs and benefits of carbon capture would logically need to be weighed against those of working to cut emissions of carbon dioxide in the first place.
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