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You know what I miss about America? Dreams. The sense that we can accomplish great things. That we can turn a dream into reality. That we can use technology to better the human condition, or at least clean up the mess from the incorrect use of technology.

The worst indictment of the neoliberal cult of austerity is that it offers no dreams, just drudgery. No hope, just pain. No heroes, just victims.

Because I suspect you might be as sick as me of the waterfall of GOP sewage that the media has been hosing us down with for months - Because I suspect that, like me, you need some inspiration to stay anywhere near the Lord of the Flies island that is American politics, I offer you a realizable dream below the dreamlike orange decoration.

Part 1 - Collect CO2

I got half my dream handed to me on an orange platter by Keith Pickering: Cheap plastic-sand composite absorbs CO2 like crazy

That DKos diary points to new research, which its title accurately describes. The material is nothing but polyethylenimine and fused sand. Dirt cheap. It adsorbs (that's ad-sorbs with a "d") 10% of its weight in CO2, then releases it if you heat the material to a mere 85 C - lower than the temperature of industrial waste heat. The magic here is in the fused silica substrate.

the PEI coating did not significantly degrade in the presence of oxygen at 85 °C. However, studies with numerous adsorption/desorption cycles are needed to assess the long-term stability of PEI under these conditions. The low regeneration temperature allows the use of low value “waste heat” readily available in many industrial
processes. Heat from the sun could also be used, making a practical application of these adsorbents more promising.

- Carbon Dioxide Capture from the Air Using a Polyamine Based Regenerable Solid Adsorbent, JACS 133, 20164-7 (2011)

Mr. Pickering correctly recognizes the ability of PEI to address the issue of excess carbon dioxide capture. But, what do you do with the CO2 after you've captured it?

Part 2 - Turn CO2 into fuel

Why, you feed it to the second part of my dream: an CORRECTION: CYANOBACTERIA-based solar energy system that excretes diesel fuel. Such a system has been created by Joule Unlimited, and is currently undergoing scale-up in Texas and New Mexico.

Joule Unlimited, Inc. today announced the signing of a lease agreement providing access to 1,200 acres in Lea County, New Mexico, with the potential to scale the project up to 5,000 acres for production of renewable diesel and ethanol directly from sunlight and waste CO2.

- Joule Secures First of Multiple Sites to Host Solar Fuel Production

This company is not some obscure scam job. It has been given innovation awards by TPTB;  to wit, the Wall St. Journal and the World Economic Forum. Not that I like either bunch of financial pirates, but they are taking Joule seriously.

One of the issues with Joule's technology has been its need for large amounts of waste CO2. They plan to co-locate with coal-fired power plants. But, the PEI technology can provide the CO2 from anywhere!

The overall result of combining these two cutting edge technologies is that it becomes possible to burn fossil fuels and sequester (or recover from the atmosphere) the CO2. The CO2 is then used to re-generate fossil fuel from sunlight. The fuel and the CO2 become nothing more than intermediate steps in the conversion of sunlight to energy. In other words, we have a closed-cycle CO2 system. Not quite as closed cycle as the freon in your refrigerator, but we could get there.

Now that's a dream! It needs no nuclear reactors. It needs no fracking. It produces fuel from sunlight without adding to greenhouse gases.

Part 3 - Respecting the scientists who create value (instead of extracting wealth)

And, while we are dreaming, I would like to dream of a world where the scientists who created these planet-saving technologies were bigger rock stars than the sociopathic ghouls that are paraded before us as "leaders", Wall St. tycoons, etc.

For example, the scientist behind Joule Unlimited is George Church. Go read his Wikipedia biography. It makes Steve Jobs look stupid. The man has advised 22 companies, several of which he founded. He was a pioneer in genetic engineering. He has supervised hundreds of Ph.D. students at (horrors) Harvard Medical School.

If our media still believed in the American Dream they would devote more time to people like George Church than to adulterers, grifters, theocrats, and neoliberal sadists. But it doesn't believe and it doesn't notice.

It is left to the mere blogosphere to inform America that cool stuff is still happening in America - cool stuff that could save us from the brain-dead vampires of the oil/nuclear industry. A mere pittance has been spent to develop these technogies, while we waste trillions fighting over oil that is poisoning the planet, while we destroy our country's environment in the name of fracking.

The America of the corporate media, of TPTB, is an obscene, bloated zombie hunting for its next fix of imperial plunder. There is still a real America, but you can't see it for all the bullshit.

So, on this meaningless "election" night, I invite you to join me in the dream of a future where the environment is saved from the death grip of Big Oil and Big Nuke. Where millions of jobs are created building and servicing the PEI and CORRECTION: CYANOBACTERIA systems. Dream. Dream and recover America.

Originally posted to SciTech on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 06:24 PM PST.

Also republished by Good News, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Science Matters, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is very good news if it turns out. (10+ / 0-)

    I am not versed in the technology. But, those who are will surely chime in and help us understand it better.
    Thanks arendt.

    Yes...this will be on the test

    by jim in IA on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 06:33:34 PM PST

  •  We Need to Bury 80 Million Oil Barrels' Worth (11+ / 0-)

    of carbon + 10 million tons of coal's worth of carbon EVERY DAY to break even.

    At that point fossil fuel becomes the same as burning wood and grass etc.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 06:46:01 PM PST

    •  Crunching numbers... (16+ / 0-)

      If I read the JACS paper correctly, the adsorber is 100% effective for 6 hours. So, I get 10% of its weight 4 times a day. So, I can clean 0.4 lbs for every lb of this stuff.

      1bbl oil ~= 44 gallons ~= 250 lbs. If it is octane, then it contains 8 carbons. Argh, have to convert lbs to moles. MW of octane(C8H18) = 114. So, one mole = 114 gm.

      And it produces 8 moles of CO2, at MW = 44 gm
      So, 114 gm octane => 352 gm CO2. ~ 3:1.

      So, if 1bbl = 250 lbs, it produces ~ 750 lbs CO2.

      80 million barrels x 750 lbs = 6 billion pounds.

      @ 0.4, need 2.4 billion pounds.


      10 million tons = 20 billion pounds

      Try same 3:1 conversion: 60 billion pounds CO2. @ 0.4 = 24 billion pounds.

      Looks like 10x CO2 from coal than from oil.

      In any case, we need to make about 24 billion pounds of this stuff.

      It is dirt cheap. Let's say $1/lb. That's only $24 B. chump change to save the planet
      10 million tons of coal = 4 million tons of this stuff.

      •  And of course... (8+ / 0-) the time we get around to testing this sort of system on a wide scale, I bet we'll have better, more efficient systems for sucking up CO2.  The plastic sand composite's efficiency rating won't stay that low forever--especially if there's big money and clear uses in its favor.  And who knows, we may have found a system that blows these current technologies out of the water in another 10 years.  The Moore's Law of green technology, if you will.

      •  Your calculations look about right (10+ / 0-)

        I've got a plan to pay for 20 billion pounds = 10 million tons, with estimated cost of $24 B.

        Tax fossil carbon. Every pound of carbon produces 4.4 lb of CO2, so each pound of Carbon ought to be taxed at the rate necessary to remove 4.4 lb CO2.

        We'll need to include capital, O/M, etc. Let's call it $1 tax per pound of Carbon mined in oil, coal, or gas. That would pretty quickly finance a very nice geo-engineering solution, such as the one you've proposed.

        A better outcome of this carbon tax, of course, would be to reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

      •  Gawd, I luvs ur enthusiasm (math squiggles)! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        arendt, Orinoco, DawnN, Larsstephens
      •  This is what I like about our community (11+ / 0-)

        arendt reads the article, starts calculating on the back of an envelope. Initially, arendt has no clue what the numbers are going to show. Maybe they will show we'll need more of the adsorbent stuff than will be possible to produce in 10 lifetimes.

        And arendt is willing to let the chips fall where they may. As it happened, we have a "gosh, this could work!" message, rather than a "this isn't practical" message.

        Reality: it's who we are.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 06:45:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You multiplied when you should have divided. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        orange dog, Jbearlaw, Larsstephens

        Your math was a little in error. We would “need” 15 billion pounds for the oil, not 2.4, because you divide by 0.4, not multiply. So with the coal, you would “need” 150 billion pounds.
        Then you would “need” additional material to store the carbon to generate the energy to raise and lower the temperatures of the 150 billion pounds of base materials.
        There are some basic order of magnitude issues with this.
        I would love for this to be successful. But right now, we are guessing on the back of an envelope.

        •  Atmospheric CO2 weighs 3000 gigatons (0+ / 0-)

          Plus or minus. At least 20% of that has to go away or we all go away.

          I foresee some problems with bulk materials handling here.

          Just using this to offset current additions to CO2 overload is not sufficient. And using this dreamy tech so that we can continue to drive around in monster trucks, fly in great silver birds, sprawl suburbia to the horizon and dream American dreams is such a silly project as makes me despair.

          Why is it necessary to check your intellect at the door in these discussions?

          •  Boy are you reading in stuff I never said (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens, ozsea1, mookins

            of course we have to stop with the constant driving and flying about just because we feel like it.

            But regardless of that, we need to run the electricity grid. We need enough transport (of whatever kind) to deliver supplies to producers and products to customers. In short, we still need gobs of energy.

            Should we reduce sprawl? Of course. But, if you don't fix CO2, fixing sprawl will not get you far enough in reducing CO2. I am all for fixing sprawl. Why can't you be all for reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere?

            I completely reject your claim that making CO2 closed cycle is a "silly project".

            You have added nothing positive to this discussion.

    •  nobody says we shouldn't reduce the amt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arendt, Larsstephens, ozsea1

      Of fossil fuels we use at the same time.

      Being ignored is the difference between being a one percenter and an American.--sweeper

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 12:02:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very cool (7+ / 0-)

    Now that's what I call 21st century thinking!  This makes my eco-geek heart go all aflutter.  I'm sure we've got decades and decades to go before we see a new system such as this becoming a big player in power grids (moreso due to resistance from the coal, gas, and oil companies than a lack of technological feasibility) but I love the idea of taking two great ideas like these and having them team up.  Great diary!

  •  Increased efficiency but I think it's not closed (15+ / 0-)

    Carbon from coal gets captured, turned into via solar energy into diesel, the diesel goes into vehicles, gets burned there.  Unless you had CCS in each vehicle, that CO2 then escapes.

    There's absolutely nothing at all wrong with getting a twofer from a given gram of carbon, compared to not doing do.  Basically a 100% efficiency improvement (less energy costs of creating and runnign the intermediate processes) would be a good thing.

    We shall not participate in our own destruction.

    by James Wells on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 07:08:22 PM PST

    •  Depends on source (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Wells, Lujane, kaliope, Orinoco

      It can scrub CO2 at a coal plant, but it could just adsorb it out of the air. In that case, it would be a closed cycle.

    •  Technically not closed, but... (6+ / 0-)

      if I make enough of this stuff, it will suck out more CO2 than all the combustion that is on going. The only cost is the need to heat the material to 85 C and capture the CO2 as it desorbs.

      At that point it becomes an engineering problem; where should I collect CO2? At the engine/source or just out of the air randomly? You have to talk transportation costs, etc.

      •  I'm just having trouble seeing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, Orinoco

        a lifetime carbon reduction that would meaningfully exceed all of the carbon costs.  You have to make the trees or similar structures, heat the trees to release the CO2 into some other container, then use the CO2 in another process to make the fuel.

        That's as currently understood.  As noted in comments, the first iterations of such things are not large scale feasible, they become so when efficiencies get better and better, and also when someone designs a work process that minimizes other costs.  A hundred ideas such as this one are worth pursuing so that one or more will hit the jackpot.

        Not sure if the exhalations on the topic from Rush L would count as part of the carbon cost once such projects made the news, probably not because you have to assume that Co2 is going to be generated anyway.

        We shall not participate in our own destruction.

        by James Wells on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 08:15:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As I said, I'm dreaming here, but... (7+ / 0-)

          these are not delusions. They are possibilities.

          As for

          heat the trees to release the CO2 into some other container, then use the CO2 in another process to make the fuel.

          I already explained/quoted that 85 C is readily obtainable from industrial process WASTE heat or solar thermal.

          And, the 2nd part of my story documents a system that will make fuel directly from CO2. The cost of THAT system is nothing but the cost of plastic tubing and circulator pumps. The algae is self-reproducing.

          I also doubt the cost of putting this $1/pound (my guesstimate) material on "trees" won't cost much either.

          IMHO this is already close enough to reality for a trial project for the adsober. (There already is a large scåle trial for the algae system underway.)

          •  There's definitely potential for an efficient syst (7+ / 0-)

            em.  Was not meaning at all to cast cold water - just saying that no matter how cheap or efficient each link in a chain is, the chain has to exist, has to be made, and has to be maintained, and each of those items cost $ and carbon.

            The potentially really good thing with this idea is that the market-recognized value would not be the CO2 reduction as much as the second go-round fuel.  In that light, it could easily justify costs of the process, and the CO2 reduction is a bonus.

            We shall not participate in our own destruction.

            by James Wells on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 10:40:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  That's the good but exasperating thing (10+ / 0-)

      It's not like we have to zero out our CO2 emissions.  We just have to be as parsimonious about them as Republicans want poor people to be about money.  

      But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

      by Rich in PA on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 04:33:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  CCR(Carbon Capture and Reuse) technology (10+ / 0-)

    is the reason why I'm not against carbon capture technology, in general.

    It's only the carbon sequestration idea that just makes little sense to me(possibly unless it is sourced from biogas-fueled plants).

    As James Wells states above, this tech that you've highlighted is not closed cycle, as the oil will likely be used for transportation.  What it does do, however, is give us a virtual doubling of the bang for the carbon buck of fossil fuel-powered power pants and decreases dependance on oil.

    This technology becomes very, very interesting when it is coupled with a biogas-fueled power plant, as that would make it virtually 100% renewable.  I don't know if there are biogas plants out there that deliver the needed amount of carbon, but coupling CCR with a biogas plant would be extremely innovative and productive for both our energy needs and the environment.

    Tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 07:32:57 PM PST

    •  The questions on my mind are (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, mookins

      this polyethylenimine is an organic compound.  
      How energy costly is it to synthesize?
      Must it be synthesized from petroleum?
      Does it degrade and what does the replacement cycle do to the energy budget?

      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

      by bmcphail on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 07:19:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It doesn't degrade on the fused silica substrate (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DawnN, Lawrence, mookins, KenBee

        The JACS paper hasn't run enough cycles to say when it degrades. But, the fact you only have to cycle to 85C should go a long way towards making this system have a long life.

        As for manufacturing it, the base substance, ethylene, is a basic hydrocarbon found in petroleum. I doubt that adding a nitrogen ( the -imine) to it costs much.

        I assume it is part of the output of a normal refinery, so it is a petroleum product. But, I'm not sure what percent of the entire adsorber is PEI and what is silica. Its probably in the JACS paper.

        That's all my humble guesswork. Just remember, I'm winging it here.

        •  IF we are trying to create (0+ / 0-)

          a petroleum-independent cycle, I wonder if the carbon source can be something else?

          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Thu Jan 12, 2012 at 01:45:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  excellent, hopeful, intelligent stuff (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fiona West, Lawrence, arendt, DawnN, ozsea1, KenBee

    rec'd with enthusiasm.

    You know what I miss about America? Dreams. The sense that we can accomplish great things. That we can turn a dream into reality. That we can use technology to better the human condition, or at least clean up the mess from the incorrect use of technology.

    this really frosts my cheese too, our refusal to rise to the occasion of our challenges, especially as it relates to the elephant in the room that is the meeting place of environment and energy and economy.

    i saw (and totally dug) KP's diary too -- thanks for taking it a big step further.

    putting aside the debate about whether what's describe here is a purely or partially closed system, it represents a appropriate and beneficial shift in our design ethic.

    waste is inherently uneconomical.  

    keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

    by homo neurotic on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 11:12:08 PM PST

  •  Great post, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, mookins

    Algae is a deadend. Try this instead

    I agree the future is in reusing CO2, but don't think algae will be involved.

    •  Sorry, mispoke. Church uses cyanobacteria. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SouthernLiberalinMD, ozsea1, mookins

      I got confused.

      You are correct.

      •  Try ARPA-E Electrofuels again... (0+ / 0-)

        Algae is dead, photosynthsis is on life support. Joule's pictures show cultures being exposed to direct sunlight; flat panel photosynthsis systems work, but are not particularly cheap to build or operate. Electrosythsis is two orders of magnitude more efficient than the photosynthsis mechanism. The rate of return will be much better with the same amount of surface area in photovoltaics feeding an electrosynthesis system.

        •  Huh? only 1 of13 arpa-e projects DONt use bacteria (0+ / 0-)
          The 13 projects that comprise the Electrofuels program intend to explore new paradigms for the production of renewable liquid fuels that are compatible with today’s infrastructure— using microorganisms to harness chemical or electrical energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels, without using petroleum or biomass.

              * Columbia University: Biofuels from CO2 Using Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria in a Reverse Microbial Fuel Cell
              * Ginkgo BioWorks: Engineering E. Coli as an Electrofuels Chassis for Isooctane Production
              * Harvard Medical School- Wyss Institute: Engineering a Bacterial Reverse Fuel Cell
              * Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Development of an Integrated Microbial-ElectroCatalytic (MEC) System for Liquid Biofuel Production from CO2
              * Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Bioprocess and Microbe Engineering for Total Carbon Utilization in Biofuel Production
              * Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Engineering Ralstonia eutropha for Production of Isobutanol (IBT) Motor Fuel from CO2, H, O2
              * Medical University of South Carolina: Electroalcoholgenesis- Bioelectrochemical Reduction of CO2 to Butanol
              * North Carolina State University: Hydrogen-Dependent Conversion of Carbon Dioxide To Liquid Electrofuels By Extremely Thermophilic Archaea
              * OPX Biotechnologies, Inc.: Novel Biological Conversion of Hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide Directly into Biodiesel
              * Pennsylvania State University: Development of Rhodobacter as a Versatile Platform for Fuels Production
              * Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles: Electro-Autotrophic Synthesis of Higher Alcohols
              * The Ohio State University: Bioconversion of Carbon Dioxide to Biofuels by Facultatively Autotrophic Hydrogen Bacteria
              * University of Massachusetts Amherst: Electrofuels via Direct Electron Transfer from Electrodes to Microbes

          I am missing your point. Do you think large scale deployment of any of these arpa systems will avoid "cultures being exposed to direct sunlight"? I just don't see how you get much cheaper than plastic in the sunlight for a physically robust, large-scale system.

          Please give me a clue what kind of physical module you envision, because I don't have time to wade through grant applications at ARPA.


  •  the Key (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to your dream is that the adsorber need not be located at the CO2 source.  This will enable optimization by function.

    So you can tune the system for various inputs or minimize various costs.

    In your system you could optimize for algae growth/throughput. The point is that the adsorber works anywhere.

  •  I don't understand (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why are you trying to save the internal combustion engine?

    If you really want to think big go to H2 and for get the internal combustion engine.

    1 Use reverse osmosis to get fresh water from sea water

    2 Use electrolysis to turn the slightly salinic water into H2

    3 Burn the H2 with O2 to make a hot flame to make steam then run your Ford F150 with a steam engine

       a very macho
       b external combustion engine
       c very powerful
       d zero carbon foot print
       e free yourself from hydrocarbons
       f save the world

    •  Who said anything about engines? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, ozsea1, mookins

      I need fuel to run power plants to generate electricity.

      You want to bash cars? Feel free. Not my issue. Not my point here.

    •  There's a problem with your plan. (0+ / 0-)

      RO requires significant energy input.

      Using a steam engine is just a bad idea -- you want a relatively large boiler and that is dangerous since boilers can and will explode if any number of things happen to them, including being ruptured during operation due to a crash.  When you combine the chance of catastrophic failure (and not merely catastrophic failure which means the engine trashes itself, but catastrophic failure which will be reported using terms like 'massive burns', 'shrapnel', and 'blast radius') with the lower energy density of the boiler-turbine system, it's just a poor idea.  There're no inherent advantages to an external combustion engine, unless the firebox lets you burn wood or something if the H2 runs out.

      Just burn the H2 directly in a internal combustion engine.  Only relatively minor modifications are needed to turn a standard gasoline engine into a hydrogen engine.

  •  Dreaming is the right word (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    World carbon output is 30 BILLION!! metric tons of carbon/year.  As the attached table shows, 90% + of our energy consumption comes from carbon based fossil fuels.

    The brutal fact is:  Our entire civilization, everything we eat, live in, move on, wear - EVERYTHING is a product of this profligate conversion of millions of years worth of stored solar energy into energy and CO2.  Either we face this reality, and get serious about reducing  population growth, and our expectation of ever increasing consumption, or mother nature will do it for us, and believe me she's getting really pissed-off.

    The "fix" proposed here is what I call a "cover of Popular Science magazine fantasy of our ever-better technological future".

    Fuel type      Average power in Trillion Watt/Hours
                                    1980    2004    2006

    Oil                             4.38    5.58            5.74
    Gas                             1.80    3.45     3.61
    Coal                             2.34    3.87            4.27
    Hydroelectric             0.60    0.93            1.00
    Nuclear power             0.25    0.91     0.93
    Geothermal, wind,
    solar energy, wood     0.02    0.13            0.16

    Total                             9.48       15.00       15.80

    Source: The USA Energy Information Administration

    (Sorry about the bad columns)

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 05:02:40 AM PST

    •  In fairness population growth is way down (12+ / 0-)

      in much of the world, even Brazil and most of South America.

      One thing that's criminal about fundamentalist Republicans is how they are stopping American efforts to fund family planning in Africa, the middle east and south Asia where women are treated as chattel, poverty is rampant, and birth rates are very high.

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 05:25:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But that's only 8x my estimate. (11+ / 0-)

      30 billion tons/yr
      ------------------   = 82 million tons/day
      365 days

      That is only 8x my guesstimate of 10 million tons of coal per day. (Not going to quibble about 'metric' tons in a back of the envelope calc)

      So we are up to a whopping 8 x 24B$ = $192 one-time cost for the entire world.

      I am sorry you think this is just more Popular Science bs.

      The technology is dead simple (after you engineer the algae) - it is basically sand and some simple hydrocarbon. It is low tech. It is a distributed system.

      There are no resource bottlenecks to set it up. No centralized plants. No exotic, dangerous stuff like nukes.

      I really think you should let yourself dream. Its an antidote to the hatred and hopelessnes the GOP are spewing.

  •  Use sewage sludge as your carbon source (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, Odysseus, ozsea1, KenBee

    Leave the coal in the ground.

    Then you are making progress at getting CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    I still have hope in advanced nuclear technologies but the nuclear industry has done a great job of destroying its future. Mismanagement of existing plants (e.g. Fukushima) and dishonesty about problems have killed public trust in nuclear power.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 05:32:28 AM PST

    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, mookins, KenBee

    sorry for the mistake.

  •  even better would be to grow DHA algae (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DawnN, ozsea1, mookins

    algae that produces DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) can be very profitable, especially as the ocean stock for fish oil gets more and more depleted.

  •  Can I vent like a grumpy old man for a minute? (9+ / 0-)

    I totally agree with your comment about respecting scientists. A huge pet peeve of mine is how the word "tech" or "technology" has become synonomous with things like writing script for Facebook, as opposed to REAL tech with is scientific research and engineering.  Every time I read the Tech section of a news site it's about smart phones.  It's drives me fucking crazy how real science rarely gets discussed in the media.  OK, I'm done whining....

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 06:52:11 AM PST

  •  Allow me to dream even bigger. (7+ / 0-)

    This will very unpopular for me to say in the wake of the Japanese tsunami, but for the long run I think we should invest in next generation nuclear technologies like molten bath cooled thorium cycle reactors.  And then we should electrify our transportation system, eliminating the need for most combustion-based transportation.

    Molten bath cooled reactors (as opposed to water cooled) are passively inherently safe, because in the absence of human and mechanical control, the reaction actually slows down instead of speeding up and spiraling out of control.  Some good layman's explanations are here:

    And the thorium cycle can reduce nuclear waste by about 90% compared to conventional uranium cycle reactors (in addition to being able to use much of today's waste as fuel). At the very least, we should build a large-scale test facility to see if this is feasible on a national scale. If nothing else, we could use these to replace our existing old and dangerous nuclear plants, and maybe the dirtiest coal plants.

    OK, proceed kicking my ass....

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 07:15:47 AM PST

    •  I come to praise your ass, not to kick it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, KenBee

      Do I take it that the LFTR is what you call a "molten bath cooled reactor"? I'm fascinated by the possibilities of it & other molten-salt designs.

      I'd like to see some funds go into a (non-nuclear) proof-of-concept demonstration of an in-line element-separation facility (probably using thermal fractionation of fluorides). If one could demonstrate that it's feasible within the on-site fuel flow loop to remove the reaction-poisoning species, recycle the actinides till they fission, & bombard the "hot" fission products in the reactor core until they're relatively harmless, that would IMHO go a lonnng way toward making further research into the concept an attractive investment.

      snarcolepsy, n: a condition in which the sufferer responds to any comment with a smartass comeback.

      by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 12:37:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am completely against uranium-based (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, ozsea1, KenBee

      nuke plants, but building one of these as a test facility might be worth it, especially if it can eat through old nuclear waste.

      It'd probably have to be govt-funded, though, because nothing is going to beat the price of wind and solar power production in the near and long-term future.

      "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

      by Lawrence on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 02:45:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the rescue! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, ozsea1, KenBee

    I checked, and "rescued" is one of my most frequent tags. Not sure what that means, but thanks again.

  •  marginal increase in efficiency, not a closed loop (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dbsf, wonmug, bernardpliers, docmidwest

    If you burn fossil carbon, capture the CO2, turn the CO2 into biofuel and then burn the biofuel, you are still adding to the atmospheric carbon budget.

    We need to stop adding to the atmospheric carbon budget. Less than doubling the efficiency of coal is not dreaming big. It is at best a stop gap as we shift off of coal as a fuel source. But since this isn't anywhere close to commercial stage technology, it is at least 15 years out from being able to actually start implementing it at existing coal plants. 15 years from now, we need to have stopped using coal plants, or we are basically locked in on the 4 C temperature rise path.

    Dreaming big means thinking of the things that will keep us from the 4 C temperature rise path. Coal -> capture -> biofuel doesn't do it.

    •  Correct conclusion and rec'd (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wonmug, bernardpliers, mookins, ozsea1

      The point of carbon sequestration isn't to return CO2 to the atmosphere by burning it, it's to use the end product in some other form than as a gas.
      If we really want to hold down CO2 emissions with sequestration then creating composite carbon materials (for use in vehicles) from waste gases would be a major step in the right direction.
       Ultra light, much stronger than steel, low energy costs for fabrication and creating vastly improved efficiency for the main source of pollution: autos.
       Besides, the main, more serious issue isn't's methane and HFLs (the replacement molecules for CFLs like Freon)- these absorb hundreds of times more heat from solar radiation than CO2 does.
      Turning those molecules into CO2 and then into solid materials should be a technology that should be pursued.

      •  sorry, dbsf, not quite correct - and that matters (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mookins, ozsea1

        A couple of things:  as of now, according to recent scientific reports, diesel is almost as bad for carbon emissions as fossil fuels themselves, because of the fossil fuels expended in its production at various stages (i.e., not because burning diesel emits carbon).  It is not at all clear to me that this solution affects that. I suspect it doesn't, because infrastructure in the production process is cheaper now when you use fossil fuels -- it has been built up that way over the last umpteen years, so switching over to a non-fossil-fuel infrastructure everywhere will be costly. To a certain extent, that is presently the problem also with biofuels.

        It is also not quite true that "the main issue is methane" -- cf my two blog posts in my Google blogger blog post on the subject.  HFLs may remove ozone, but that is not a serious threat to the survival of most of humanity (carbon emissions are) -- just an extremely serious threat to our health. Methane from natural sources, added to our present somewhat steady-state human-caused methane, will under all realistic scenarios apparently cause less than approximately half the global warming caused by carbon emissions a la today, but has a short half-life in the atmosphere (8.9 years today, possibly doubling during a spike) compared to carbon as CO2, so the effects of methane as methane end there. However, half of methane degrades into, among other things, CO2 while it is up in the atmosphere, so the real problem is the additional carbon added on top of the carbon already in the atmosphere, perhaps 25-35% additional carbon. And, of course, the carbon emissions are driving the rapidity of methane release, by melting Arctic clathrates, by melting permafrost, and by increasing the area and hence the methane output of wetlands (i.e., permafrost tends to be replaced by peat-bog wetlands). In other words, the main issue continues to be carbon emissions.

        That is not to say that the slurry isn't reason for hope and great technology investment.  It is; but that is because some other related technology may well allow more permanent sequestration of CO2 on a global scale. The hour is later than you apparently think; and so the effective solutions must be more drastic than the ones you propose. By all means, dream and dare technologically; but dare more, and more realistically.

        •  Clarification (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          My comment about methane is regarding its ability to absorb infrared- it's far more efficient at trapping solar radiation than CO2, twenty times more efficient.
          My comment on HFCs (a typo in the last post...) is also correct. I'm not referring to its effect on the ozone layer (although less than CFLs) but to their potency as greenhouse gases: over 20,000 times more efficient than CO2. Add a longevity from 40-200 years and it's increasing use as a refrigerant and it's more serious than most people realize.  
           I agree with you on the increasing emissions of methane from melting permafrost due to global warming, that's a run-away train I'm sometimes afraid we can't get off of.
          If we can figure out a way to use petroleum and coal for manufacturing instead of pumping it up exhaust pipes that would go a long way towards alleviating the CO2 problem.
          That and all the other ideas being tossed around here tend to keep me somewhat more optimistic; certainly it's a pleasant antidote to the waves of stupidity coming from the right.

      •  You still need plastics, industrial chemicals... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, KenBee

        Today we get them from petroleum. You can use the diesel made by JU as a refinery feedstock - not for fuel, but for vital industrial raw materials.

        As for CH4, I don't see what methane has to do with correctly burning diesel fuel.

        Can't get into a detailed discsussion this minute, but could you please explain how my dream increases methane production? I don't get it.

        •  Oils can be made from hemp seed (0+ / 0-)

          A very high yield per acre.

          (I know, someone had to say it.)

          It would also help if we quit eating so much meat.

          “Fair? Fare is what you pay to ride the bus. That’s the only ‘fair’ I know.” ~ Heylia James, from Weeds - 1st season

          by ozsea1 on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 08:14:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Algae Will Remain A Niche Market Maybe Forever (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The defense department invests in this because they want an independent source of fuel for strategic reasons. The return on investment (ROI) and especially the return on energy (ROE) will remain really dismal.

      It's unlikely that algal fuels ever be a significant use for CO2, and burning it doesn't accomplish much.  Algae could be used to create other chemical feedstocks.

      To reduce atmospheric CO2, it needs to be injected underground or pumped into the ocean at a depth of over 2,000 feet.

      There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

      by bernardpliers on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 09:32:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  3rd apology - its cyanobacteria, not algae nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        •  Understood (0+ / 0-)

          They are fundamentally different organisms, but they are playing in the same ballpark. The cyanobacteria probably bring more novel biochemical pathways to the table. The algae are quite similar to higher plants, but have a lot of unique traits that let them survive in different environments. For instance, if I were interested in plants that survive cold temperatures, I might be looking at algae that grow on ice.  

          There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

          by bernardpliers on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 10:13:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Dream small- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If this could be scaled down, it would be wonderful to be able to make diesel in my backyard. I could use several hundred gallons a year.

  •  I love technology too..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SouthernLiberalinMD, James Wells

    ... but I still don't see how any of this reduces the net amount of carbon we're adding to the atmosphere.

    As long as we're digging coal and drilling oil and gas wells, an activity that proceeds like gang-busters, and for which there is no sign anywhere that we have an alternative in terms of energy yield, we are ADDING carbon to the system.

    All of the proposed solutions, when carefully examined, either simply recycle the additional carbon (ex: growing algae to produce oil), use huge fossil inputs (corn ethanol), or seem very problematic (putting the carbon back into the geological cycle - a job that took the planet millions of years in the first place).

    ERGO:  The only way to solve our problems is to quit having fantasies that we can continue on our present path of exponential growth if only we can find some trick that will magically suspend the laws of thermodynamics.  

    We must switch over to a renewable energy economy, and considering the high energy requirements of civilized existence and the low energy density of renewables when compared to fossil fuels, we must also control our population and our rates of consumption as the ONLY realistic long-term answer.

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 10:00:46 AM PST

  •  It's funny, but I've been having this fantasy... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that used yogurt cartons could some how be repurposed to collect carbon and pull it out of the atmosphere... sort of like you run corn syrup through a tube and concentrate it into high fructose corn syrup.

    And lo and behold... here it is.

    I'd better start dreaming on the next best thing!

  •  missing the limiting steps (0+ / 0-)

    This is making a huge deal out of a very minor piece of the problem. The hard part is getting enough renewable energy (sunlight etc.) for the chemical conversion process. And to the extent we do get it, the best use to start with is simply to let us shut down coal-powered plants.

    As for getting concentrated CO2, there's lots right now in smokestacks of those coal plants. We could be directly sequestering it, probably cheaper than letting it go, then regathering it, etc. etc.

    As for using biosystems for the renewables, increasing the CO2 concentration available to them only slightly improves productivity.

    Improving various peripheral parts of the process is great, but it's important not to lose sight of the key issues in dealing with the peripheral ones.

    Michael Weissman UID 197542

    by docmidwest on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 11:47:26 AM PST

  •  thank you for this. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Being ignored is the difference between being a one percenter and an American.--sweeper

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 11:59:42 AM PST

  •  More of stuff like this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Less scolding, nagging, and general gloom and dooming about how were all going to have to use much less energy and be poor, please.

    "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

    by Whimsical on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 12:44:17 PM PST

  •  Ha, I bet it'll be surpressed... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...if they ever make it work.

    Increasingly I think the only hope is carbon capture and storage. We certainly aren't making progress in any other area and at least this way if we slowly reduce emissions we can eventually catch up.

    Too bad we can't find some way to turn it into rocks.

  •  closed cycle fossil fuels is a ridiculous idea (0+ / 0-)

    you burn fossil fuels, you get CO₂, shit's a gas in any environment on Earth.  The only way to store it on a geological timescale is to turn it into coal and bury it.  Which requires as much energy as is liberated by burning it.

    Do you have a chemical process to turn CO₂ into coal?  How do you get energy for it?  Why not just use that energy source directly, and save everyone the trouble?  Why not just turn CO₂ into coal directly without burning fossil fuels first?

    How about leaving coal in the ground, and maybe burying more coal.

    If you want to talk about dreaming big, there are two energy technologies that could not have been developed until the 20th century, since you need quantum mechanics to understand them.  One of them is useful anywhere in the inner solar system to gather small amounts of energy.  The other is deployed in large units and burns up to a million times less fuel than chemical systems, in fact, the spent fuel is up to a tenth of a percent lighter than what was plugged in.  

    I think the coolest big dream design is the traveling wave reactor, which is supposed to transmute non-fissile stuff into fissile fuel and then burn it in a wave that creeps across the fuel over the course of a few decades.  The Chinese are looking into building one.

    Another really cool idea is the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, in which a thorium salt is the fuel and the coolant, and can be continuously reprocessed to add fuel and remove waste while the reactor is running.  The Chinese are also looking into building one of these.

    Global warming is the inconvenient truth, nuclear power is the inconvenient alternative.

    by eigenlambda on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 01:25:59 PM PST

  •  We need to get the C out of CO2. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    orange dog, Miss Jones

    it's not enough to capture CO2, we should be trying to extract that carbon and letting the O2 escape.

    We need to extract it and turn it fuel, but we also need to turn it into some kind of physical form that people wouldn't otherwise use as fuel.  Like a tree that is genetically engineered to grow diamonds along it's roots or something.  Maybe not even something that extravegant.

    I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

    by DawnG on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 01:27:53 PM PST

    •  If you remove the C, you must attach it to some... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, Miss Jones

      thing else.

      Currently, when people talk about splitting CO2, they want to turn the C into methane (CH4) - which is an even worse greenhouse gas.

      Carbon is with us. You cannot make it vanish. CO2 is more benign than some other forms, and less benign than others.

      That's why diesel is a good form of carbon. It can be used as feedstock to produce valuable industrial materials, like plastics and chemicals and pharmaceutical raw materials.

      •  We don't have to reinvent the wheel here. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miss Jones, ozsea1

        Turn C in to a Sugar like plants do.    There has to be some artificial means of duplicating photosynthysis that achieves greater yield than natural plantlife.

        Or, turning organic waste material into a hydrocarbon that can then be processed into plastic.  Plastic is a great carbon sink.  This was one of the selling points of Thermal Depolymerization way back in the day.  (I'm still disapointed that didn't live up to its potential.)

        "The diamond tree" isn't feasible, I realize that, but something to harvest carbon from the atmosphere in such a way that we won't just end up throwing it back up there.

        I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

        by DawnG on Wed Jan 11, 2012 at 03:31:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Put the Carbon Back to Work in the Earth! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DawnG, Miss Jones, ozsea1

          Putting the carbon into vehicle fuel pretty quickly puts it right back into the atmosphere. If you convert it back to fertilizer and soil amendment, that fertilizer, when applied, then draws even more carbon out of the atmosphere and converts some of it into new and permanent soil.

          Here's a link to the diagram of how we're doing that at Algae Aqua-Culture Technology:

          The Algae Aqua Process

  •  not closed to feed the bacteria (0+ / 0-)

    The bacteria need nutrients other than carbon dioxide to live, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and trace metals.  Depending on the source, this the nitrogen comes in the form of ammonium nitrate, which in turn comes in part from elemental nitrogen and elemental hydrogen, and hydrogen for the most part right now comes from natural gas.  

    It remains to be seen how closed this system really is.  (Actually, life in a totally closed system would die!)

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