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The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby clif » Tue 18 Mar 2014, 17:59:59

Hopefully Geo-engineering won't fail like this;

Corn-eating worm evolves to feed on GMO corn designed to kill it

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/18/c ... o-kill-it/

The crop itself is not to blame, say scientists, but rather mismanagement by farmers, corporations and lawmakers that has led to the squandering of whatever benefits had been gained by the use of the genetically modified crop.


snip

In order to keep the rootworms from developing a resistance to the Bt corn toxin, farmers were told to keep “refuges” of non-Bt corn so that rootworms could grow there unaffected. Those worms were meant to be mated with worms in Bt fields in order to keep the worms from developing an immunity to the GMO corn.

Scientists proposed to the EPA that farms should consist of at least half non-Bt corn, but these regulations were opposed by the seed companies peddling the GMO corn. Eventually, the EPA set voluntary guidelines of 5 to 10 percent of land left for non-Bt corn.

Many farmers didn’t even follow that recommendation.

Now, rootworms are back, returning in 2009 to cornfields in northeastern Iowa. Those worms had become resistant to one species of the three available Bt corn types. More reports followed from Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.


The path of most failures of human designed solutions, People who for greed or arrogance refuse to do the prudent thing, and just end up making matters worse.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 18 Mar 2014, 18:11:07

D, Didn't expect that response! Just goes to show that internet communication can be so easily misinterpreted. I was surprised that Barbara is writing about environmental issues (along with other celebrities such as Darryl Hannah and Robert Redford). Also I haven't read the UN article she refers to about the length of time it would take to sequester carbon using soil. That is interesting and would appear to offer hope that this method could work if enough effort was put into it by governments and farmers.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 24 Mar 2014, 20:28:42

Cold short-cut to carbon dioxide storage

Could refrigeration technology -- against all the odds -- kick-start CO2 storage in the North Sea?

All over the world, scientists are on the hunt for solutions that will allow CO2 to be captured from large power stations and industrial plants. Many of the methods in use today employ chemicals or advanced materials to extract CO2 from flue-gases. But now, a chilly alternative is showing signs of heating up.

When CO2-rich gases are compressed and refrigerated, the carbon dioxide turns into a liquid -- like steam on a cold bathroom mirror -- and can be drawn off. Calculations performed by SINTEF, the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia, suggest that in many cases, this method is cheaper and less energy-intensive than competing capture methods, in spite of predictions that the opposite would turn out to be true. This is good news for everyone who hopes that Europe will soon start to implement carbon capture and storage (CCS).

"CO2 captured in liquid form can be loaded straight aboard a vessel and be transported to offshore storage sites before pipelines have been laid. If our findings open up the possibility of cold CO2 capture, they could help to bring forward the introduction of CO2 storage beneath the North Sea," says SINTEF research scientist Kristin Jordal.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Mon 24 Mar 2014, 20:50:23

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/david-s ... ate-change

We can't just geoengineer our way out of climate change
By David Suzuki

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then -- toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes...

But we’re still running up against those pesky unintended consequences. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied five geoengineering schemes and concluded they’re "either relatively ineffective with limited warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change." That’s partly because we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering. Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others. But geoengineering isn’t the solution. And it’s no excuse to go on wastefully burning fossil fuels. We must conserve energy and find ways to quickly shift to cleaner sources.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 24 Mar 2014, 20:58:34

D, I like this part of your quote. I think we are going to have to use some of them (listed above and in previous thread) to lessen the effects of gw later this century.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering. Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Mon 24 Mar 2014, 23:00:38

You little devil, you. I knew you would pick that one line out of the whole otherwise-cautionary article.

I guess we all focus in on what we want to hear.

For the record, I don't think we can rule anything much out at this point, but I do think we should constantly reflect on the essential mindset that got us into this mess and try not to act out the same destructive memes that produced our current horrific predicaments.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 25 Mar 2014, 18:24:43

D, Of course we have to stop emitting ghg in the first place but there is already a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere which has to be removed somehow. Here is what the IPPC say on the subject:

The world’s governments tasked the IPCC with investigating these emerging technologies, and three things are clear from the IPCC’s brief analysis:

Carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management might have benefits for the climate system, but they also carry risks, and at this stage it is unknown what the balance of benefits and risks may be.

The overall effects of solar radiation management for regional and global weather patterns are likely to be uncertain, unpredictable, and broadly distributed across countries. As with climate change itself, there would most likely be winners and losers if solar radiation management technologies were to be used.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, solar radiation management does not provide an alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since it does not address the rising emissions that are the root cause of ocean acidification and other non-temperature related climate change impacts.

This last point is particularly important. The most that could be expected from solar radiation management would be to serve as a temporary tool to manage some temperature-related climate risks.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Tue 25 Mar 2014, 20:38:43

Yep, further evidence of the utterly desperate situation we know find ourselves in.

It's all over now, baby...
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Timo » Wed 26 Mar 2014, 11:11:03

My state just repealed our renewable energy quotas.

Our leaders are just sticking their heads in the sand and taking the Koch's money to make any recognition of reality against the law.

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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 29 Mar 2014, 18:01:37

Give geoengineering a chance to fix climate change: David Keith

There may indeed be broad agreement among scientists that climate change is happening, that humans are causing it and that urgent action is needed to prevent a global disaster. New reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only add to the weight of science’s verdict on the subject. Just what to do about climate change, however - and how quickly - is still a matter of intense political and policy debate.

And if you really want to see the sparks fly, try suggesting geoengineering as a solution to global warming.

As the term implies, geoengineering is engineering on a planetary scale.

Geoengineering is an attempt to arrest the course of climate change through a number of different schemes, such as seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles. Or putting gigantic mirrors in orbit around the Earth to reflect sunlight back to space. Or fertilizing the ocean with iron to stimulate the growth of carbon-absorbing plankton.

For a lot of people, it sounds like mad science.

And geoengineering has been a magnet for controversy and criticism. Its opponents include some of the world’s most prominent environmentalists, including David Suzuki and Al Gore.

Earlier this year, in fact, the former U.S. Vice President said that the very idea of geoengineering is “insane, utterly mad and delusional in the extreme.” He added that “the fact that some scientists who should know better are actually engaged in serious discussion of those alternatives is a mark of how desperate some of them are feeling due to the paralysis in the global political system."

But Canadian environmental engineer David Keith is taken seriously by policymakers and scientists when he speaks about the possibilities of geoengineering.

Keith was a long-time professor at the University of Calgary and is now a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Gordon McKay Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. He’s particularly interested in solar geoengineering, or solar radiation management, which would involve putting tiny sulphur particles into the stratosphere, where they would reflect solar energy back to space.

In his new book, A Case for Climate Engineering, Keith says that geoengineering is a “brutally ugly technical fix.” He cheerfully admits that he has a lot of qualms about it as a technology that could have dangerous and unintended consequences, and that it doesn’t address the root cause of climate change: the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But, as Keith told The Sunday Edition’s Michael Enright in an interview, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that it could rapidly lower the Earth’s temperature and counteract some of the effects of climate change.

It’s technically feasible and relatively inexpensive to do, he adds.



[You can hear Michael Enright’s entire conversation with David Keith this weekend in Hour 2 of The Sunday Edition, which begins at 10:05 a.m. on CBC Radio One, or in the audio-player link at the top-left of this page.]


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 01 Apr 2014, 20:37:43

Obama Takes Bold Step to Geoengineer Climate Change

Secret Report Lays Out the Plan

A heavily redacted copy of a classified report titled "America Cools Down on Climate" (ACDC) and obtained by TheGreenGrok outlines the audacious plan to use commercial air traffic to mitigate the growing impacts of climate change across the United States.

The plan falls under the category of what is known as geoengineering: the attempt by humans to slow, stop, or even reverse global warming by manipulating the environment instead of aiming to slow greenhouse gas emissions themselves.

Geoengineering examples include injecting particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space and dumping iron into the ocean to enhance the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide by oceanic phytoplankton. The ACDC plan, code-named "Rainmaker," is considered by experts to be groundbreaking not only because it did not require the construction of a vast industrial infrastructure; it also helped keep flights on time.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 03 Apr 2014, 18:28:04

U.N. report explores bioenergy's potential for pulling CO2 out of the air

Pushing the needle back on billowing carbon dioxide emissions may be necessary to avoid catastrophic warming. But for those who are squeamish about drastically engineering the climate by seeding algae blooms or spraying aerosols to form clouds, scientists are exploring the concept of negative emissions.

The physical science section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report, released last September, suggested that bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) could effectively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The assessment also notes that bioenergy that produces char could also take a big bite out of greenhouse gases.

Over the course of 100 years, the report said, BECCS could pull 125 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the sky, while biochar energy systems could draw down 130 billion metric tons of the gas. For reference, the world churned out just less than 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, according to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

However, "potentials for BECCS and biochar are highly speculative," the report acknowledged. "BECCS technology has not been tested at industrial scale, but is commonly included in Integrated Assessment Models and future scenarios that aim to achieve low CO2 concentrations."


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 03 Apr 2014, 21:06:40

Five facts CBC listeners didn’t hear from Canada’s geoengineering cheerleader

Keith didn’t take the time to mention a few other details. For those who are skeptical about Keith's case for geoengineering, here are five things that Keith didn't mention, and Enright kindly didn't bring up.

1. David Keith runs a geoengineering company funded by tar sands money

In addition to being an author and a professor, David Keith heads up Carbon Engineering, a Calgary-based startup that is developing air-capture technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company is funded by Bill Gates, who is also a geoengineering proponent, and by N. Murray Edwards, an Alberta billionaire who made his fortune in oil and gas. Edwards is said to be the largest individual investor in the tar sands, and is on the board of Canadian Natural Resources Limited, a major tar sands extraction company. Carbon Engineering hopes to sell the carbon dioxide it extracts to oil companies to help in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)- a technique for squeezing more fossil fuels out of the ground which will in turn be burnt to produce more atmospheric carbon.

2. The geoengineering that Keith proposes could be disastrous for the Global South

A study of the likely effects of one of the methods Keith is promoting, spraying sulphuric acid into the atmosphere with the aim of reflecting sunlight could cause "calamitous drought" in the Sahel region of Africa. Home to 100 million people, the Sahel is Africa's poorest region. Previous droughts have been devastating. A 20-year dry period ending in 1990 claimed 250,000 lives. Other models predict possible monsoon failure in South Asia or impacts on Mexico and Brazil, depending where you spray the sulphur.

3. Keith's geoengineering proposals are deeply aligned with the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry

If oil, natural gas and coal companies can't extract the fossil fuels that they say they're going to extract, they stand to lose trillions of dollars in stock value, $2 trillion in annual subsidies, and about $55 trillion in infrastructure. David Keith's enthusiasm for geoengineering plays to the commercial interests of these companies whose share value depends on their ability to convince investors that they can continue to take the coal out of the hole and the oil out of the soil. This may be why fossil-sponsored neoconservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute have been so gung-ho for geoengineering research and development along exactly the lines that David Keith proposes. For example there is very little difference between what Keith proposes and what the American Enterprise Institute’s Geoengineering project calls for.

4. Climate scientists just issued a new round of criticisms of geoengineering


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 15 Apr 2014, 20:28:10

Biomass with capture: silver bullet or bulldust?

With atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide already at 40 per cent above pre-industrial quantities and rising fast, we need to expand our emissions reduction options, not limit them. We need to scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts, and we need to do it fast. We need to stop deforestation and scale up reforestation. We need to turn off the taps increasing carbon pollution levels, but also to pull the plug.

On Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest mitigation report stressed that in many scenarios, avoiding 2 degrees by 2100 was not possible without carbon-removal technologies, particularly bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (also known as BECCS or bio-CCS). The IPCC also warned that the costs for those scenarios would be substantially higher without these tools.

Nature has the blueprint to remove carbon from the air, as plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide when they grow. The natural cycle returns that carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but BECCS and other technologies can remove it from the cycle (as explored in our recent Moving Below Zero report).

Appropriately managed, BECCS has the potential to best remove and store large quantities of our carbon over geological timescales, while providing energy supply. The challenge is to develop and deploy these capabilities as a support, not substitute, for urgent action in other renewables, energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.

The IPCC draws on international models, but no detailed national studies have been done on how much carbon removal technologies like BECCS can contribute to domestic emissions reductions, so we wanted to test this for Australia.

To this end we commissioned leading economics firm Jacobs SKM to conduct a world first national level study into how BECCS can help achieve a carbon budget for Australia that can credibly help international efforts to avoid 2 degrees warming - a goal both major parties reaffirmed their support for this week.

We chose a budget that uses the Climate Change Authority’s estimate of a fair share of international effort, around 1 per cent, but towards a global budget that has at least 75 per cent chance of avoiding 2 degrees, not 67 per cent. This 8.5 billion-tonne budget would run out by 2030 on current pollution levels.

The research found that BECCS using food wastes, sustainable plantation forest biomass and crop residues, could remove and displace up to 65 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2-e) annually by 2050 in Australia. That is about 1.5 times current emissions from all cars in the nation.

Globally, BECCS could remove up to 10 billion tonnes of pollution per year in 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

Strong and early policy action on energy efficiency and other renewables is needed regardless of whether BECCS is available or not, SKM found. Afforestation and other emission-reduction options relating to land-use change are also critical. For example, energy efficiency and other renewable energy sources like wind and solar are required to halve emissions from electricity from around 200 MtCO2-e today to 100 MtCO2-e in 2030 across all scenarios. Renewables would be 30-40 per cent of electricity supply in 2030.

If we don’t tap into the mitigation potential of BECCS, there will be environmental and economic trade-offs that need to be made.

The research indicates that excluding BECCS – even if putting maximum effort into other emission-reduction options – reduces the chance that national climate goals can be achieved domestically. Without BECCS the national carbon budget would be exceeded by around 1.7 billion tonnes, or a 20 per cent overshoot by 2050. This increases the reliance on the use of increasingly expensive international emission offsets to achieve national goals.

The cost of emission reductions without carbon removal technologies is also significantly higher: up to $60 billion to 2050.

There’s no silver bullet in the climate challenge. While the IPCC's report is the latest in saying we can achieve the increasingly difficult goal of keeping below 2 degrees warming at a fraction of ongoing growth, there’s no free lunch.

Deploying BECCS will, like other climate solutions, need clarity on the overall carbon pollution reduction goals (5 per cent by 2020 is inadequate and irrelevant) as well as long, loud and legal decarbonisation signals. BECCS will also require the recognition of the need for carbon removal and incentives to urgently deploy demonstration technologies. International and national sustainability standards will also be crucial.

A demonstration BECCS plant has been operating in Illinois for three years capturing and storing a million tonnes of carbon pollution from the industrial processing of bio-ethanol. It is due to move to commercial scale next year. The technologies required exist but the policies and incentives don’t.

A big question remains over whether the level of bioenergy needed could be produced in a socially and ecologically sustainable manner. Proper consultation and standards will be required to ensure the protection of conservation and cultural values as well as enhancing, not hindering, poverty-alleviation efforts. These risks don’t mean we shouldn’t consider the potential of BECCS or other carbon removal technologies, they mean we need to work out how to do it properly.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 24 Apr 2014, 22:31:20

Storing Greenhouse Gases by Petrifying Them

Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground could help address climate change, but some experts worry that the gas will leak back out.

Research described in the journal Science points to a more secure way of storing it—as rock. The scientists showed that when carbon dioxide is pumped along with water into certain types of underground formations, it reacts with the surrounding rock and forms minerals that could sequester the carbon dioxide for hundreds or thousands of years.

Last week, a major U.N. climate report called attention to the importance of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) for dealing with climate change, and suggested that the cost of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius would greatly increase if CCS isn’t used (see “The Cost of Limiting Climate Change Could Double Without Carbon Capture Technology”). But the report also noted that concerns about leaks could slow or block large-scale use of the technology.

In the new work, researchers from University College London and the University of Iceland added carbon dioxide to a stream of water being pumped underground at a large geothermal power plant in Iceland, as part of normal plant operations. The carbon dioxide quickly dissolves in the water, and in that state it no longer has a tendency to rise to the surface. Once underground, the carbon dioxide-laden water reacts with basalt, a type of volcanic rock. The researchers showed that, within a year, 80 percent of it had reacted with magnesium, calcium, and iron to form carbonate minerals such as limestone.

Researchers have proposed storing carbon dioxide by reacting it with basalt and other types of rock before. What’s surprising about this study is just how fast the reactions occurred, says Sigurdur Gislason, a professor at the University of Iceland. The researchers report that 80 percent of the carbon dioxide they’d injected had formed carbonates in just one year.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Fri 25 Apr 2014, 19:37:20

2C in our Rear-View Mirror, Geoengineering Dead Ahead

Brad Plumer, a writer I sincerely hope you follow on Twitter, has a new piece up about the infamous 2C “safe” limit of global warming. This is an absolute must read piece, and I hope everyone reading this site who hasn’t read it already does so.

Brad’s article is: Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change. While I won’t comment on it in detail, partially out of a desire to push you to go read it and partially because I don’t have a lot to add, I do want to chime in on three points about the overall concept of a 2C “safe” limit:

First, the basic idea that 2C of warming over pre-industrial times (or any other specific limit measured in global average temperature) is a sufficient way to specify a guideline is naive. Just as important is the rate of change, as quick change will ripple through the environment and cause much more ecological disruption than would slow change resulting in the same absolute temperature level. We could certainly define a “safe” limit so low that accelerating from pre-industrial temps to the limit would cap the rate of change, but we’ve likely already blown by that ultra-conservative limit at our current 0.8C.

Second, even ignoring the rate-of-change argument, claiming that 2C is “safe” is making an exceedingly broad and shaky claim. As I pointed out in a post on this site in late 2010 (Some perspective on 2C for the new year), there was a kind of “proto-IPCC” UN effort involving 152 committee members from 58 countries that published their findings in the book Only One Earth in 1972 that said (page 192; emphasis added):


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 01 May 2014, 16:39:09

Graeme you need to see this, it is a speech by an engineer who has developed artificial air carbon dioxide capture technology for $30.00 to $50.00 per ton of CO2. The link should start at 1:10:30, if not fast forward to that time stamp.

http://youtu.be/XPaTAC29W2I?t=1h10m25s
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 01 May 2014, 21:43:41

T, Thanks. I watched the first few minutes of flickering video. I don't have ultra fast broad band yet (will by July) so didn't see all of it. It was a talk by Klaus Lackner who I've referred to before in this or other geoengineering threads. As I recall, his process was expensive but he may have found a way to reduce costs. Are you able to get other details?

I haven't looked very far but I found this:

Klaus Lackner works on carbon capture technology

Professor Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute, at Columbia University, is working on technology to scrub carbon dioxide from the air. “Our goal is to take a process that takes 100,000 years and compress it into 30 minutes,” says Lackner.

Direct air capture of carbon dioxide is a method that takes carbon dioxide out of ambient air, as opposed to carbon dioxide that is captured from the point of emissions, say, from the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant.

Lackner and his team are developing a device they call an air extractor, modeled after what is most abundant in nature: the leaf of a tree. There is about 0.5 liter of carbon dioxide in a cubic meter of atmosphere. When the extractor is dry, it loads itself with carbon dioxide from the air; when it's wet it releases carbon dioxide it has captured.

“We can do this at a cost of about $30 a ton of carbon dioxide”, says Lackner, “we have designed a box that can extract about a ton of carbon dioxide a day; it fits into a shipping container”. “If we had 100 million of them", Lackner adds, “we could extract more carbon dioxide out of the air then is currently put in.”
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 01 May 2014, 23:00:15

Graeme wrote:T, Thanks. I watched the first few minutes of flickering video. I don't have ultra fast broad band yet (will by July) so didn't see all of it. It was a talk by Klaus Lackner who I've referred to before in this or other geoengineering threads. As I recall, his process was expensive but he may have found a way to reduce costs. Are you able to get other details?


They have a process that will collect a halt a liter of CO2 from each cubic meter of air that flows through the collector and it is cyclical, they can discharge and capture the CO2 with a wet process and then reuse the collector plates. Unfortunately they are having a hard time coming up with funding to build a prototype and prove exact cost per ton of CO2 in real world conditions. From costs of materials he estimates costs as low as $30.00 per ton possibly starting out at $50.00 per ton and then decreasing as experience leads to cost cutting improvements. Whatever else he said went over my head other than he expects humans to demand to keep burning fossil carbon because it is cheap and he thinks his technology to retrieve the CO2 would ad about $0.40 to each gallon of liquid fuel and about $90.00 to the cost of burning a ton of coal.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Fri 02 May 2014, 01:04:34

This is also informative but published March 2012. Not sure what is happening now.

Direct air capture of CO2 is becoming a business, for better or worse

Since 1999, when Columbia University physicist Klaus Lackner wrote the first scientific paper [PDF, download] about capturing carbon dioxide from the air, his unlikely idea has grown into a nascent industry. Four start-up companies, including his own, Kilimanjaro Energy, are working on technologies to extract CO2 from the atmosphere using chemical processes. The air-capture start-ups are funded by billionaires (Bill Gates, Edgar Bronfman Jr.) and venture capitalists (Arch Venture Partners), and they are attracting interest from private equity firms (Warburg Pincus), investment banks (Goldman Sachs), energy companies (Summit Power) and a military contractor (Boeing).

This week, a group of about 70 entrepreneurs, academics, investors and partners gathered in Calgary, Alberta, for the first-ever North American conference devoted to air capture. (Someone said it felt like history in the making. That remains to be seen.) As the industry’s pioneer, Lackner, who is affiliated with Columbia’s Earth Institute, played a prominent role, but he was in no mood to celebrate. While climate change was on the agenda, much of the program focused on the biggest emerging market for air capture technology–namely, using liquid CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

Kilimanjaro’s CEO, Ned David, said that CO2 could do for the oil business what hydrofracking has done for natural gas, unleashing vast amounts of fossil fuels that might otherwise remain in the ground. “A money gusher,” he called it. Others talked about using air capture to make fuels at the military’s Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and even, half in jest, to “green” the fizz in Coke and Pepsi.

This, of course, was not what Lackner had in mind way back when. “What makes air capture worth doing is its climate impacts,” he told me. “What will pay for it are these other applications.”

“The real problem I want to solve is not interested in being solved,” he lamented.

The conference was the strongest sign yet that direct air capture is becoming a business–for better or worse. For better? Because air capture technology has enormous potential to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, albeit very slowly and at considerable expense. The costs remain unknown, with estimates ranging wildly from $30 per ton of CO2 captured, which is almost surely too low, to more than $600 a ton, which is almost surely too high, although the bigger number comes from a report [PDF, download] from the respected American Physical Society. For worse? Because as air capture transitions from academia into the marketplace, the start-up companies will need to generate revenues to stay alive, even if those revenues enable more oil to be pumped out of the ground. Put another way, air-capture technology has become a solution in search of a market, while its backers wait for the world to get serious about climate threat.


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