The Netherlands Confronts a Carbon Dilemma: Sequester or Recycle?

Public opposition to sequestration will make it harder to reach the country’s carbon reduction goal

4 min read
Photo: John Gundlach/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux
Waste Not: Converting emissions from this steel mill into kerosene could fuel half the airplanes at a nearby airport.
Photo: John Gundlach/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

As soon as the new Dutchgovernment took office in October, it announced an aggressive target—to reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent by 2030. This will ultimately require the Netherlands to sequester 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 4.5 coal-fired power plants.

Sequestering that much CO2 underground will be difficult, whether it’s captured directly from the flues of power stations and steel mills or extracted from the air. Currently, the Netherlands sequesters less than 10,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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