When I went back this last summer to photograph Mountaineer, there was only one photo I had in mind. I wanted to photograph the point at which carbon was leaving the “above ground” and being pumped underground. Again, to my surprise, the plant was really nice and accommodating. They told me there was a single wellhead but that it was really boring and insignificant looking, which is exactly what I was hoping it would look like. The first time I was there I couldn’t photograph anything that had to do with carbon sequestration because they were days away from starting the process. In the year since, they’ve been giving consistent tours to companies and groups from around the world interested in implementing a similar system.
When I arrived again I sat down with Charlie and talked for over an hour about energy policies. This time we really focused on carbon capture and emissions. And again, at the end of the conversation (just like in 2009) Charlie really wanted to drive home the point that there is no singular solution to carbon emission. Solar power, for example, will not change the face of energy production and consumption alone. And on that point, I couldn’t agree more. Realistically, what I imagine a push away from oil and fossil fuels looking like is this: widescale state and federal enforcement of current mandates aimed at protecting citizens and the environment, such as the Clean Water Act. Heftier fines and more severe punishment for violating EPA standards. Federal subsidies for consumers, especially in cities, that chose to plug into alternative energy sources. Incentives for energy consumers that prove that they’ve reduced their energy consumption by at least 10% in a single year. Doing this will create a culture of conservation and awareness, and let’s be honest, economic incentives are what get people interested in these things on a large scale. As the culture changes and social consciousness surrounding energy evolves, companies will take note and start investing in alternative energy research and development. Consumers will be using less energy, which will hypothetically coincide with a slow transfer to sustainable resources that provide energy, although less efficiently (wind and solar for example).