Facing the prospect of federal action on global warming, many states are encouraging businesses and consumers to limit their carbon dioxide emissions. But in Texas, government officials and university researchers are looking in a different direction: Stuff the greenhouse gas underground.

The state geologist has said that Texas could become a national repository for carbon dioxide, pointing out an irony: Texas, which is the country’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has a Legislature reluctant to limit emissions, could end up reaping billions of dollars from federal caps on the gas.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a flurry of activity by proposing rules for carbon storage. And a U.S. House subcommittee on environment and hazardous materials took testimony on the topic. Texas lawmakers held their own hearings in the spring, and no fewer than three research teams at the University of Texas are studying the technical side of the issue.

The tactic, ambitious and distinctly Texan, would allow power plants to get rid of their carbon dioxide and companies ultimately to pump out more oil. State officials are exploring how to capture carbon dioxide from specially built power plants and inject it underground beneath the Gulf Coast and the oil-rich Permian Basin in West Texas.

Meanwhile, the issue has split environmental groups. Major players, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, have generally supported carbon storage as another tool to ratchet down global warming.

‘A big issue’ for Texas

But some groups, such as Greenpeace, have described carbon capture and storage as a corporate boondoggle.

Texas emits at least 650 million tons of carbon dioxide each year – if the state were its own nation, it would be the seventh-largest emitter globally – and some officials say the state needs to prepare for the possibility of federal rules on carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s such a big issue for the state of Texas, we can’t be caught standing at the gate,” said state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who serves on the House Energy Resources Committee and supports the pumping of carbon below ground…

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