Thursday, February 14, 2008

The definition of insanity

Fascinating, both for the technical advance and the psychology it's a demonstration of: Los Alamos labs have invented a technology they say can suck CO2 out of the air with energy and capital costs orders of magnitude lower than previous technology, and at higher efficiency. And what do they want to do with this world-saving technology?

Make gasoline. Which can then be burned to release the CO2 right back in to the atmosphere. Apparently, the whole "sequestration" thing has passed them by. But it's still a fascinating concept: I'd love to see an energy-analysis of this kind of system vs. photosynthetic (i.e., biomass) liquid fuel production.

Some rough math suggests that if their claims are accurate, we could suck almost three kg of CO2 out of the air for every kWh used. Meaning -- and this is funny -- even if you powered the plant with coal, you'd actually net out less CO2 than you put in. Or, we could use 10% of the Earth's total electrical output for 50 years, and lower the concentration of CO2 from 372 ppm to 350, which should be well short of the danger zone. If we stop emitting CO2 now. 10% is a lot of electricity, no kidding, but this is the kind of application off-peak power was made for.

1 comment:

Aron said...

In recent days I'd been idly wondering about the feasibility of such a feat, and (to come clean) about the possibility of using a portion of the recovered carbon as a fuel source (as such a direct source of the stuff would hopefully avoid some externalities of biomass fuel sources). Who knew I could will it into being?