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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008
    Hopefully, my technophilia isn’t getting the better of me again:

    Los Alamos National Labs has just released details of a new radically cheaper technology for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and converting it back into liquid fuels.

    If this works it would solve two of the most serious technological problems of the present - a carbon-neutral replacement for liquid transport fuels and an efficient way of storing renewable energy.
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008
    The first thing that pops into my head is what do they do for the millions of people being provided energy by the nuclear cooling towers they propose to take over for this process? Coal plants? Hydro? I really hope there are more options to creating large amounts of energy than what I know from playing SimCity.

    *looking at the PDF*
    And my next question. Just how much CO2 is stripped from the air in this process? How much do the plants on this planet need in order to live? Are we going to accidentally strip ourselves of breathable oxygen by suffocating the world's plant life?
      CommentAuthorJohn R
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008 edited
    It's inconceivable to strip that much CO2, by this or any other remotely feasible technology. As they note in their PDF, it becomes harder and harder to extract CO2 as the concentration drops. Most plants - which produce CO2 constantly through respiration - need very little to live, and produce (in a closed system, anyway) pretty much exactly what they then take up since glucose production and respiration is a cyclical process (allowing for plant growth, energy loss in the system, replenishment of ATP or whatever the plant equivalent is, etc.). We all produce CO2 from oxygen, so we're never going to run out of the stuff.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008

    1. The proposal is to build more nuclear power plants rather than convert existing ones but I'd much rather use renewable energy. Given a source of water, you could place solar or wind energy anywhere and use it to make liquid fuel. All the problems associated with storing and transporting electricity would be solved.

    2. The carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere is returned to it when the fuel is burnt. The only net loss from this process would be when we used the methanol produced to make plastics.

    It took us about 150 years burning coal and oil as fast as we could to increase the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere from 280 parts per million to 420. It'd probably take a lot longer than that to simply get back to 280 PPM.
      CommentAuthorJoe Paoli
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008
    I haven't yet read the PDF, but if this is something we can only have by building more billion dollar nuclear plants, I'd rather that money be devoted to solar, wind, and other initiatives that produce energy with no radioactive by-products.

    Surely there are other ways to capture carbon for use in this process aside from cooling towers.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2008
    The report is from Los Alamos so there's an innate bias towards nukes but you could use any non-fossil power source.

    As one example, Iceland has huge, huge geothermal resources that they have no local use for and currently there's no way to export the power.