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The myth of carbon capture vs. the reality of direct clean power service

Renewables should replace fossil fuel plants, not prolong their use by trying to make them cleaner.

Feb 1, 2024

“It’s always better to eliminate emissions with renewable energy than to use it to try and take carbon dioxide out of the exhaust stream of a fossil fuel power plant.”

With this statement, Mark Jacobson, author, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program, summed up the fraught relationship between renewable energy and carbon capture technologies. 

In other words, according to Jacobson, renewables should replace fossil fuel plants, not prolong their use by trying to make them cleaner. But why? There are three key reasons.

  1. Carbon capture is an unproven technology. Take Petra Nova in Texas, for example. The world’s biggest carbon capture plant, which cost $1 billion to build, famously missed its carbon capture target by at least 800K tons before shutting down for three years in 2020. These figures exclude emissions from the natural gas turbine used to power the facility and from the oil that much of the captured CO₂ was used to help extract from a nearby oilfield. 

  2. Carbon capture projects divert critical funding away from carbon-free energy projects like wind, solar, and geothermal. “About 40% of the funding from the [$891 billion] Inflation Reduction Act in the United States is going towards things like carbon capture, direct capture, biofuels, and bioenergy—what I call ‘useless technologies’,” said Jacobson. That’s a significant amount of funding siphoned away from projects like the SunZia wind farm in New Mexico, the biggest renewable project in the U.S., which took nearly two decades to raise $11 billion and begin construction in 2024.

  3. Carbon capture is energy and capital intensive. According to the IEA, even if their performance and reliability improved, the carbon capture technologies necessary to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C by mid-century would require 26,000 terawatt hours of electricity and $3.5 trillion in investments per year.

“We have until 2030 to solve 80% of the problem, and until 2050 at the latest to solve 100% of the problem,” said Jacobson. “We do not have time to waste.” 

Direct clean power service can help close this gap today.

Direct clean power service: a realistic alternative to the myth of carbon capture

In contrast to problematic carbon capture technologies that are favored by fossil fuel companies, clean power service providers like Aston offer a solution that eliminates fossil emissions using technologies that are available today.

This is accomplished by bypassing the grid and immediately putting clean energy to use where and when it’s generated. Think of a solar farm that, instead of sending its electricity to the grid, instead uses it directly to help power an on-site data center. 

You can learn more about direct clean power service here.

“Aston Clean Energy Campuses serve two important purposes: promoting business growth while simultaneously removing fossil fuels from the supply chain,” said Aston co-founder and CEO Greg Robinson. “This isn’t about trying to ‘clean’ fossil fuel emissions, which we know can’t be done. Instead, it’s about putting carbon-free energy to use directly supporting industrial business needs, and in the process, progressively building towards a supply chain that no longer needs fossil fuels in order to function.” 

Learn more

The contrast between unproven carbon capture technologies and available clean power service technologies couldn’t be starker, nor could the consequences of continuing to prolong our supply chain’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

Visit the Aston website to learn more about direct clean power service and the Aston Clean Energy Campus. You can also join the conversation by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter/X or subscribing to the Aston newsletter.