Changing Mindsets on CCS Technologies

by Caroline Chmiel

As “decarbonisation” as a world-wide initiative continues to spread, scientists and governments have an increased interest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies. CCS technology involves capturing CO2 emissions at the industrial combustion sources, compressing it for transportation and transporting it (via pipelines) to an appropriate geological site into which it is injected for long-term storage. Focus groups in London reveal the psychology behind differing opinions on energy. Nuclear power strongly shapes the critical argument in these studies. The general consensus of these findings argues there is little public anxiety concerning this technology, but in private, opinions are overall negative. To start, research shows awareness of CCS amongst non-specialist groups is small. Once briefly introduced to the concept, perceptions immediately took a negative attitude revolving around the risks being higher than benefits. In addition, this paper defines the concept of a ‘moral hazard’ in regards to CCS as risks associated with technology or continued reliance on fossil fuels when investment needs to completely shift to renewable technologies. The UK national planning policy says that “CO2 emissions are not reasons to prohibit the consenting of projects which use these technologies” therefore endorsing the potential for technology beyond the demonstration stage. Returning to public opinion, when CCS is perceived in this manner of bridging technology that will not reduce investments in renewable technology, acceptance is at its highest. When people believe the government doesn’t have an interest in the outcome and public involvement is valued on the topic of climate change and CCS, people are also more open.

Making the psychological task of opening people to CCS more difficult is the concept that knowing more about a particular technology does not necessarily mean that someone will be more supportive or enthusiastic about it. Regardless, researchers know few people will ever interact with this technology, but still be able to have an opinion. To change and influence these semi-blind thoughts, scientists note the need of opinion makers and rise of family and friend conversations. Currently, people interviewed tend to make opinions on CCS in the manner of trade-offs in comparisons to other renewable technologies. The public must engage with CCS technology to give it a wide role in energy conversation. Lastly, a mental dichotomy appeared in the public where technologies are split between ‘good’, ‘natural’ and commonsense technologies (i.e. wind turbines) and ‘bad’, ‘unnatural’ and industrialized technologies (i.e. nuclear power). CCS being pushed into the ‘nuclear’ category automatically impedes its potential power and image.

Lock, Simon J., Melanie Smallman, Maria Lee, and Yvonne Rydin. ““Nuclear Energy Sounded Wonderful 40 Years Ago”: UK Citizen Views on CCS.” Energy Policy (2014): 428-35. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.



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