We are suddenly petrified by carbon dioxide. Not because the risk of climate change is overblown, but because our technological mastery over this simple gas has been vastly undersold. By applying this technological mastery, readily-available carbon-neutral energy sources and efficient vehicles we can stop treating Earth’s atmosphere like a garbage dump, just as cities in the industrial world (and increasingly beyond) no longer flush refuse into rivers and bays. That is the message of Carbon-Nation, a blog to blow off the haze of claims and counter-claims obscuring climate change solutions, charting the technological paths available today to re-energize our economies.
Starting with carbon capture. Why do so many still view the capture of CO2 from power plants as science fiction, or at best impractical? CO2 leavens our bread, bubbles our soda, animates the pistons powering our combustion engines, and even dry cleans our best ensembles. We know how to handle this stuff. In fact, CO2 is rapidly becoming the key to domestic oil production: Since the 1970s U.S. oil producers have pumped millions of tons of CO2 into their rapidly maturing oil wells to free up the liquid gold trapped within (collecting handsome tax breaks in the process).
They’ll use hundreds of millions of tons more in the decades to come. In other words storing carbon underground is already standard practice in the oilpatch — and profitable to boot. See, for example, my story “Carbon Dioxide for Sale” in MIT’s Technology Review on Dakota Gasification, which buries more CO2 pollution in oilfields in a year than a hundred thousand cars release in their operational lifetime.
If the technology to capture and store CO2 is viable today, why does CO2’s growing concentration in Earth’s atmosphere leave us feeling so powerless? Why do we let utilities build new carbon-spewing coal plants and automakers build unreformed combustion engines? Because the anti-climate PR campaigns financed by oil companies, automakers, coal producers and utilities told us that reforming our energy systems would bankrupt the economy.
Carbon-Nation will seek to deliver the knowledge available to master that fear and to implement solutions that will give us cleaner, higher-performing energy system.