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Carbon Capture vs. Carbon Avoidance: Which Is Better?

The world’s leading companies are investing millions of dollars in carbon capture and storage projects.

Alphabet, Meta, Shopify, Stripe, and Mckinsey have recently joined hands to commit $925 million to accelerate the development of permanent carbon removal technologies.

Elon Musk even donated $100 million towards the best carbon capture technology prize.

Several carbon capture and sequestration projects are already in the works or proposed throughout the U.S., including California, Texas, Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana, and Minnesota.

However, many critics argue that such projects would pose threats to communities’ public health plagued by water and air pollution.

For example, Basav Sen, climate justice policy director for the Institue for Policy Studies, said carbon capture is neither feasible nor workable.

Also, more than 500 environmental organizations signed an open letter last year, calling it a distraction by the fossil fuel manufacturers and not a climate solution.

So, what is the real solution?

Is carbon avoidance better than carbon capture and sequestration? And how can you reduce carbon emissions? Let’s find out.

What is Carbon Capture?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide produced by power plants or industrial activities such as cement or steel production.

Once captured, the carbon dioxide is then compressed and transported via pipeline, road transport, or ships to a site for storage and injected deep underground.

The CO2 might be stored where there are porous rock formations or coal beds that can’t be mined. Additionally, organizations can store carbon in depleted gas or oil reservoirs.

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, carbon capture, use, and storage technologies can capture over 90% of carbon dioxide(CO2). In addition, companies can use it to enhance oil recovery and manufacture fuels.

The Problem with Carbon Capture

Carbon capture technology could be the solution to reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but it has many shortcomings. Here are a few drawbacks of carbon capture and storage.

Complex and Expensive

Many of the schemes proposed in the 90s for carbon capture and storage were abandoned because of their complexity. According to a report from Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness, it has a history of over-promising and under-delivering.

The technology still faces barriers and is highly expensive. According to researchers at the University of Utah, the electricity cost can go up by 50% to 80% to pay for the implementation of carbon capture and storage technology.

Long-Term Storage Capacity for Carbon dioxide Is Uncertain

Calculating the exact capacities of different storage sites is not easy. As per the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, many countries do not have enough carbon dioxide storage capacity to implement CCS.

Although, MIT scientists estimated that the United States has adequate CO2 storage capacity for at least the next 100 years. Uncertainty remains, however, for any time frame beyond that.

Carbon Capture and Storage is a Major Risk

Carbon capturing can cause pipeline rupturing or leaking. Additionally, compressed CO2 is incredibly hazardous and can cause asphyxiation to any living thing that encounters it. If compressed CO2 leaks from pipelines, it can contaminate water and trigger seismic activity.

In 2020, more than 40 people in Satartia, Mississippi, had to be hospitalized because a 24-inch pipeline carrying compressed carbon dioxide ruptured.

Therefore, people living near the carbon capture and storage projects would always be considered at risk.

Carbon Capture Technologies Do Not Capture Enough CO2

There are only 26 carbon capture storage plants globally. These plants only capture 0.1% of the annual global emissions from fossil fuels. 81% of the carbon captured has been used to extract more oil, increasing carbon emissions instead of reducing them.

Increase Air Pollution

Several critics argue that carbon capture and sequestration require more energy to power the equipment, which would increase air pollution. The carbon capture technology can only capture a portion of the carbon emitted by a facility.

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Is Carbon Avoidance Better than Capturing Carbon?

Carbon avoidance is different from CO2 capturing. CO2 avoidance refers to any projects or activities that prevent carbon emissions. Examples of carbon avoidance include:

  • Building wind farms to lower reliance on fossil fuels
  • Installing solar panels to avoid using coal-generated electricity
  • Using hydropower for irrigation and mechanical devices
  • Using electric vehicles for transportation

Since there is a considerable risk involved with carbon capturing, carbon avoidance practices are comparatively a better option at this moment. It is cost-effective and provides more substantial CO2 reduction results compared to CCS.

According to a Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS), 35% of solar electricity in the Western US would reduce carbon emissions by 25 to 40%. It would also reduce fuel costs by 40%.

How Can You Avoid Carbon Emissions?

How you avoid carbon emissions will depend on the industry you’re in. But as a manager of a transportation or logistics company, here is how you can lower your organization’s carbon footprint.

Use Electric Vehicles

Battery electric power is not suitable for ships or airfreight, but they’re ideal for vehicles on the road traveling shorter distances. Electric vehicles (EVs) are the best alternative to gas-powered cars because they help save fuel costs.
Plus, a battery-powered vehicle doesn’t require oil changes or transmission fluid flushes, and you won’t have to spend money on filling up with gas.

Use a Route Planner

If you think that EVs aren’t a viable option for your logistics or transportation company, then there are other ways you can reduce fuel consumption and lower your carbon footprint.

For example, use a route planner to reduce your time on the road. A route optimizer provides well-optimized routes and can help you get to your destination quicker.

The software considers traffic, weather, roadblocks, and other constraints while planning routes. So, you will never get stuck on the road, spend less fuel, and emit less carbon.

The best route planners like Route4Me come with many other features that help reduce emissions, such as:

  • Reporting and analytics to monitor and control fuel consumption
  • GPS tracker to monitor vehicles on the road and ensure drivers do not engage in reckless driving, which increases fuel consumption. Plus, it helps ensure drivers do not deviate from the route, make unnecessary stops, or stand idle in a location for too long.
  • Customer alerts and notifications to let customers know their delivery status and reduce failed deliveries.

Route4Me route planner has prevented 10 billion miles from being driven and reduced carbon emissions by over 10 Billion. It cleaned up enough air, equal to planting more than 87 million trees. Learn more about Route4Me’s Environment and Sustainability (ESG) initiatives.

Use Sustainable Packaging

Your packaging materials such as boxes, straps, wrappings, or containers should be 100% recyclable to ensure zero landfills. Additionally, you can use greener packaging such as paper or cardboard to reduce the need for non-biodegradable plastics.

It Starts in the Office

Although trucks and vans are among the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, your office can also release carbon dioxide. To lower your carbon footprint, you can:

  • Install solar panels
  • Install sensor taps in all bathrooms
  • Invest in green office equipment
  • Recycle materials employees use, such as glass or plastic packaging
  • Switch to digital storage to avoid using paper
  • Use sustainable suppliers

Consider Carbon Offset

You can offset your carbon emissions to balance your overall CO2 footprint. The cost will vary based on your carbon output. However, you can go for a carbon-neutral certification partner that will help you find a cost-effective option for your transportation business.

The certification will involve an assessment of your CO2 emissions, which will include:

  • Fuel Consumption
  • Electricity use
  • Waste products
  • How sustainable is your equipment is

You’ll receive a range of projects to offset your emissions. These projects can include investing in renewable energy farms.

Final Thoughts about Carbon Capture

Carbon capture isn’t the best option to lower CO2 emissions at this moment. Because it doesn’t work fast enough. What’s more, the technology isn’t fully developed, and it’s costly.

The only viable option is avoiding carbon emissions in the first place since it can reduce CO2 emissions quite significantly and without costly changes. It’s also safe, and any company can adopt CO2 avoidance practices to become sustainable.

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About Route4Me

Route4Me has over 35,000 customers globally. Route4Me's Android and iPhone mobile apps have been downloaded over 2 million times since 2009. Extremely easy-to-use, Route4Me's apps create optimized routes, synchronize routes to mobile devices, enable communication with drivers and customers, offer turn-by-turn directions, delivery confirmation, and more. Behind the scenes, Route4Me's operational optimization platform combines high-performance algorithms with data science, machine learning, and big data to plan, optimize, and analyze routes of almost any size in real-time.