Ecuador’s Novel Carbon Storage Method

Emerging Sustainable Technology, Design, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology

Ecuador’s Novel Carbon Storage Method

A pond covered in petroleum runoff next to an oil well near Coca, Ecuador

Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places in the world: there are as many tree species growing in a single hectare of this rainforest as in all of North America. Unfortunately this mega-diverse area of the northwest Amazon also sits atop the majority of Ecuador’s 4.6 billion barrels of proven petroleum reserves. Oil extraction in the area has led to environmental destruction from oil companies dumping waste products in haphazardly (see photo) and deforestation form settlers that use oil company roads to start new villages further and further into the forest.
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Ecuador is not a rich country, and despite the environmental destruction caused by oil companies, the revenue generated by petroleum exports is an essential source of funds for the Andean nation.  In light of all the money European and North American nations are spending on carbon sequestration and carbon capture and storage methods, Ecuador’s Environment Minister, Marcela Aguiñaga, has come up with a novel suggestion: she is asking the world’s top economic power houses to pay Ecuador to keep its oil in the ground as a form of climate change mitigation.  From an article in Der Spiegel:

Industrial companies and power plant operators in the European Union are now required to present such certificates in return for emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Supply and demand determine the price per ton. The Ecuadorians are proposing that the crude oil in the Yasuni region be incorporated into the CO2 trading system. The Yasuni reserves would be converted into equivalent tons of CO2 not emitted into the atmosphere as a result of Ecuador preventing production from moving forward.

“The revenues would be used to enhance the protection of 5 million hectares (12.3 million acres) of nature reserves in Ecuador, to promote more environmentally friendly rural development and to protect our native tribes,” says Aguiñaga. The rainforest would remain untouched and the oil would stay in the ground, and yet the country would receive enough money for development. It sounds like an ideal solution.

In terms of methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, not putting it there in the first place seems like one of the best.

-Ben Connor Barrie

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