New Method For Fighting Climate Change Involves Sucking Carbon Dioxide Out of the Sky to Make Fuel

Thursday, 07 June 2018 - 6:15PM
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Earth
Thursday, 07 June 2018 - 6:15PM
New Method For Fighting Climate Change Involves Sucking Carbon Dioxide Out of the Sky to Make Fuel
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As our reliance on fossil fuels continues pumping more greenhouses gases into the air and making climate change that much worse, a team of scientists has proposed a fairly intuitive solution: start creating fuel from the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Obviously, a plan like this isn't simple, or we might have done it already (or maybe not, given the state of politics). But a Canadian firm called Carbon Engineering is proposing a method of collecting carbon dioxide in the air via a method called "direct air capture", and converting that CO2 into a form of usable power that wouldn't disrupt modern technology that currently relies on fossil fuels, like cars.

And most importantly, they can do it cheaply, which is unfortunately a crucial factor here. But if it's cheap, at least more people will be interested.



Direct air capture is pretty much what it sounds like: a large fan draws in lots of air and essentially filters it through a liquid solution which captures any CO2 it comes in contact with. Then, by heating and chemically messing around with the captured carbon, it can be converted into a source of energy that many fuels require.

David Keith, the founder of Carbon Engineering and a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard, said the following in a press statement:

Opening quote
"The carbon dioxide generated via direct air capture can be combined with sequestration for carbon removal, or it can enable the production of carbon-neutral hydrocarbons, which is a way to take low-cost carbon-free power sources like solar or wind and channel them into fuels that can be used to decarbonize the transportation sector."
Closing quote


As for the price, previous attempts to do just this have stalled since it could cost up to $1000 to filter a metric ton of carbon dioxide. But Carbon Engineering's new method costs a fraction of that at $100 a ton of CO2, making the process much more economically feasible.

It's not a theoretical process either - the company is already making use of a large bank of fans to capture CO2 and convert it into a cleaner form of liquid fuel, and a paper describing their process in full was just published in Cell. Each day they absorb about a ton of CO2, but they're working on blueprints for a much larger facility which could potentially filter a million tons of CO2 per year.

This isn't the end of the battle against climate change, especially since this method doesn't actually decrease the amount of CO2 in the air. But it does prevent new greenhouse gases from entering and making the situation worse.

And at a bare minimum, that's something we should be doing.


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