Tag Archive | "carbon dioxide"

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Two Carbon Capture & Storage Developments

Posted on 03 July 2016 by Jerry

It looks as if baking soda is a key breakthrough in carbon capture and storage. Most countries were assuming a technology breakthrough that would allow them to take carbon out of the atmosphere. We should remember that if there is excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it contributes to global warming then a key solution is to take this out of the atmosphere. This reality serves as the basis of a significant portion of the carbon reductions signed up for by various countries.

In a new breakthrough scientists have fashioned sponges made with baking soda to capture carbon emissions. They have tested microcapsules filled with their baking soda formula and believe their approach could be up to 40% cheaper than any existing technology.

One article cites Joshua Stolaroff, an environmental researcher at the Livermore Labs. He said, “Like all the commercial CO2 schemes we have today, the goal for large scale implementation is taking many tons of gas from a power plant and finding geological features deep underground where we can inject the CO2 and it will stay indefinitely.”

This leads us to the second development to be called out in research summarized in the June 10, 2016 issue of Science magazine. This article essentially says that 95% of carbon dioxide carbonizes and turns into benign carbonate minerals within two years when injected into a site in Iceland. This assumes the site has the appropriate chemistry and composition for carbon dioxide storage.

The carbon dioxide is dissolved in large amounts of water and then stored in porous basaltic rock. Here it undergoes a chemical transition to become a carbonate that binds to iron, calcium or magnesium, all of which are natural ingredients of the basalt.

Previously, scientists believed it would take hundreds if not thousands of years for carbon dioxide to harden underground. Obviously the faster the carbon dioxide turns to a harder material the better because it can be reused by other industries. An advantage of the microcapsule approach is that the carbon dioxide can be retrieved. If the baking soda solution is heated it turns into a form of gas that increases its value to others.

As said many times, there is reason for optimism in that human beings can find a solution or react fast enough to solve or diminish any problem we might identify. If we could only combine these two technologies or even if we can use them separately, it is clear we are making progress.

Taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is a part of the worldwide solution to climate change. This baking soda solution and the fact that it takes only two years to mineralize carbon dioxide underground, each point to progress in lessening climate change. This gives us reason for optimism when we think about our scientific community and the great problems confronting us.

Use the following links to obtain more information on these subject areas.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36197603

http://www.energy.gov/articles/these-tiny-capsules-fight-climate-change

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6291/1312

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/pulling_co2_from_the_air_promising_idea_big_price_tag/2197/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/07/scientists_use_baking_soda_to_capture_carbon_dioxide/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/06/09/scientists-in-iceland-have-a-solution-to-our-carbon-dioxide-problem-turn-it-into-stone/

 

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What Can You Do With Air? Suck Carbon?

Posted on 14 November 2015 by Jerry

One way to control climate change is not to put more carbon dioxide into the air but rather to take it out. Numerous firms and researchers are trying to develop cost effective ways of sucking carbon dioxide from our polluted air and turning it into salable products. Stuart Licht, a Professor of Chemistry at George Washington University in Washington D. C, leads researchers attempting to exploit this opportunity.

Licht begins with a solar cell that is a concentrated photovoltaic. He uses it to focus sunlight to a semiconductor panel that converts about 40% of the energy into electricity at a high voltage. An article in the September 11, 2015 issue of Science magazine goes on to state, “The electricity is shunted to electrodes in two electrochemical cells: one that splits water molecules and another that splits CO2. Meanwhile, much of the remaining energy in the sunlight is captured as heat and used to preheat the two cells to hundreds of degrees, a step that lowers the amount of electricity needed to split water and CO2 molecules by roughly 25%.”

The problem that all researchers have run into is the absence of government funding which they originally believed was possible. The question they then have to confront is how to monetize what they do; have someone else pay them to remove CO2 for example from coal plant exhaust, from the air or turn it into a product that they can sell.

Licht’s team from George Washington University had earlier solved this problem by turning the extracted CO2 to carbon nanoscale fibers. Appearing in the August 19, 2015 MIT Technology Review, the article states that assuming there would be great growth in demand Professor Licht believes “the material’s properties, especially the fact that it is so lightweight and also very strong, will spur greater and greater use as the cost comes down.”

The team is taking CO2 and cooks it in molten carbonates. Surrounding air is added with a current of electricity from steel and nickel electrodes. Carbon nanofibers begin to grow on the steel electrode. The article continues as Dr. Licht is quoted as saying, “Imagine that carbon fiber composites eventually replace steel, aluminum, and even concrete as a building material…at that point, there could be sufficient use of this that it’s actually acting as a significant repository of carbon…We have found a way to use atmosphere CO2 to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers.”

Another company that has built a demonstration machine in British Columbia, Canada, is Carbon Engineering out of Calgary. David Keith is executive chairman of the firm and is also a climate physicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His company is partially funded by Bill Gates. They recently opened a facility at Squamish, British Columbia, that processes about a ton of CO2 per day.

An article in the October 15, 2015 issue of Nature magazine states, “The plant uses fans to push air through towers containing potassium hydroxide solution, which reacts with CO2 to form potassium carbonate; the remaining air now containing less CO2, is released. Further treatment of the solution separates out the captured CO2, regenerating the capture solution for reuse.” Carbon Engineering additionally announced a deal with the province of British Columbia to assess the feasibility of turning the CO2 into fuel to power local buses.

There are other startups including one that has as its largest investor Edgar Bronfman Jr., former chairman and CEO of Warner Music. Another startup is working with Audi. These startups are looking to sell CO2 to be pumped into greenhouses to increase crop yields. In addition, they would like to remove carbon dioxide at the behest of a U.S. energy company.

This is not to say that any of the aforementioned companies will succeed or dominate a thriving business. They are trying however to develop a technology that will obviously benefit those of us that are concerned about climate change. This is the type of entrepreneurial effort that we need to be encouraging and saluting. Let us all hope for great success for these entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists that are funding them.

Use the following links to access additional information or look at the original source documents used for this article.

http://news.sciencemag.org/chemistry/2015/09/feature-there-s-too-much-carbon-dioxide-air-why-not-turn-it-back-fuel

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/540706/researcher-demonstrates-how-to-suck-carbon-from-the-air-make-stuff-from-it/

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33998697

http://www.gizmag.com/c02-atmosphere-carbon-nanofibers/39015/

http://www.nature.com/news/commercial-boost-for-firms-that-suck-carbon-from-air-1.18551

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/business/pilot-plant-in-the-works-for-carbon-dioxide-cleansing.html?_r=0

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3051240/these-enormous-fans-suk-co2-out-of-air-and-turn-it-into-fuel

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jul/14/carbon-direct-air-capture-startups-tech-climate

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Is There Cap and Trade in Our Future?

Posted on 18 October 2015 by Jerry

Countries are doing it. States are doing it. And groups of both are doing it. It only stands to reason that we (the U.S.) will be doing it some day, especially if the Republicans win. So what is a cap and trade program as it pertains to climate change?

There is nothing mysterious here, Cap and Trade is straightforward. An institution, a state or country, decides how much pollution they should be putting into the atmosphere and by what time in the past they exceeded their limit or at what level they will put a “cap” on their emissions. The objective normally is to return to some past level and better it by cutting emissions even further.

The institution normally gives out permits to various businesses. Those that put out emissions that stay just under their annual permitted amount see no change. Those that achieve targeted reductions can sell their excess permits to other businesses that need more time. In this way, companies can make money on the permits they can sell and other companies can buy themselves more time to achieve their required level. This is the business of selling and buying the permits.

Typically the cap is divided amongst various industries with each having a “cap” for their kind of business with all caps totaling the amount of carbon emissions the institution will allow to be generated during the year. The caps in each industry shrink over time cutting the industry’s overall emissions over a number of years.   In this way there is a belief that a cap and trade system gives all players another layer of motivation to achieve desired outcomes.

This sounds easy right, but it isn’t. The problem is that all pieces of the puzzle can be moved or changed to advantage various parties. So far California, the European Union and a host of other players have implemented different plans with a variety of outcomes. Others have announced plans they will institute in the future, like China.

Most people that have looked at cap and trade systems and other alternatives prefer a more straightforward tax on emissions. Never-the-less cap and trade systems are still favored by many businesses, politicians and by the finance community. They see them as something that can be “gamed” to an advantage by sharp people who can manipulate the political entities and regulators who set up and administer these programs.

Politicians and power companies like cap and trade systems because they mask that customer costs for power will go up dramatically. Their greatest fear is that the public will understand that the politician’s and power company’s actions are raising the consumer’s costs. The cap and trade mechanism hides that power companies will just pass on additional costs to its ratepayers as higher prices. This is a much sneakier way of raising costs for energy than just implementing an energy tax. No one wants to be the cause of higher prices.

Cap and trade has a checkered past. The California and European systems represent the best and worst of cap and trade plans. The European system is known as the Emission Trading System (ETS) and is the world’s largest such system.

There are more than 25 countries in the European Union and each country gave out too many permits to their industries. The politicians wanted to make their industries more competitive. Unfortunately they all felt that way and given they were afraid of their constituencies knowing they were the cause of higher prices, they all gamed the cap and trade system.

Critics point out that for much of the ETS history the prices generated have been so low that utilities have been dis-incented and made no progress on reducing their emissions. This is because they found it less expensive to run coal-fired plants than to switch to less polluting natural gas.

The California system is more successful because it is administered by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). This takes it out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of bureaucrats that will make it work. While it remains much more complex and still allows the politicians to hide from rising prices, it is much more successful and has elements that are being copied around the world.

We must be realistic. Whether it is the result of a direct tax or a cap and trade system, energy prices to consumers will go up as power companies pass increased costs on to the consumer. Smart politicians will act now and put the effects of their actions out in the future so they will not be associated with charges during their political tenure. We, and especially our children, will all pay for climate change and coping with it.

But if we know we are going to pay for it and that sooner is cheaper than later, we will support higher charges now rather than even higher prices later. This is where knowledge and willingness collide to produce progress. We must act. Very smart people once asked, “If not now, when and if not us, whom?”

Use the following links to access more information or see the original documents used as the basis of this article.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/air/the-political-history-of-cap-and-trade-34711212/?all

https://www.edf.org/climate/how-cap-and-trade-works

http://www.ehow.com/facts_7246784_pros-cons-cap-trade-system_.html

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/index.cfm

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/06/27/us/20090627-nat-climate.ready.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/29/us/politics/obama-to-offer-rules-to-sharply-curb-power-plants-carbon-emissions.html

http://www.carbontax.org/cap-and-trade-problems/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/20/europes-cap-and-trade-program-is-in-trouble-can-it-be-fixed/

http://www.technologyreview.com/notebook/414025/the-problem-with-cap-and-trade/

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=14411

http://legal-planet.org/2015/06/19/does-pope-francis-really-hate-californias-cap-and-trade-program/

http://www.chinabusinessreview.com/chinas-cap-and-trade-plan/

http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/index_en.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/26/world/asia/china-emissions-xi-jinping-limit-cap-and-trade.html

 

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Ozone Progress but India Pollutes China, U.S.

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Jerry

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, effective a little over 25 years ago has been labeled the most successful international agreement in history. Since the banning of substances that destroy the ozone in the upper atmosphere, we have seen concrete improvement or slight shrinkage of the Ozone Hole over the South Pole.

The agreement banned substances used in refrigeration (air conditioning, freezers, etc.) to do away with the ozone hole. Unfortunately, many of the substitutes, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), while sparing the ozone, “have a substantial global warming potential.” So says a July 31, 2015 article released by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD).

The article speaks to efforts to get the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG), the group of nations that have been meeting to monitor the original Montreal agreement, to take on the management of the elimination of the HFCs. This would put these parties directly in the middle of the climate change problem.

What gives this move its impetus in part is a working paper issued by the IGSD that says that a quick elimination by 2020 of these HFCs could prevent half a degree of world temperature rise by the year 2100. This is viewed as a significant contribution to progress of efforts to control global warming.

Once again there was disagreement over how best to tackle the issue. Whether it was best to deal with the HFCs in this group or give the issue to those organizations fighting climate change. The last few meetings of this group showed promise when several nations changed their positions. Led by India these countries put forward proposals to confront the problem. Pakistan however, blocked adoption of any one of the four different plans presented by stating that none of the substitutes for the HFCs would be an effective refrigerant against the heat in their country.

At the same time a report published in Nature magazine in its August 10, 2015 issue blamed pollution wafting across the ocean from India and China as the reason the West Coast of the U.S.A. has not made any progress in lowering the ozone pollutants in its atmosphere.  Citing the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that undertook the study, Nature reported that this Chinese pollution was the reason the Western states of the USA showed no lessening of its atmospheric pollutants after reducing its production of ozone-forming pollutants by 21 percent between 2005 and 2010.

NASAs JPL said in its release that “Scientists from the Netherlands and from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California looked at ozone in the mid-troposphere, about 10,000 to 30,000 feet (3 to 9 kilometers) above ground level….In the mid-troposphere, ozone has a measurable greenhouse effect.”

Finally, scientists have reported on the Nature Geoscience web site on February 16, 2015 that they have discovered that a very short-lived substance, less than six months, is a significant contributor to the destruction of ozone. This article says, “Halogens released from long-lived anthropogenic substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons, are the principal cause of recent depletion of stratospheric ozone, a greenhouse gas.”

Their research results, “Show atmospheric levels of dichloromethane, a short-lived chlorine substance not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, are rapidly increasing. We conclude that potential further significant increases in the atmospheric abundance of short-lived halogen substances, through changing natural processes or continued anthropogenic emissions, could be important for future climate.”

We are seeing unprecedented success to keep the benefits of our ozone depletion fighting efforts. In fact, the choices our scientists have selected are contributing to climate change and they are being pressed into service to start helping with climate change as well.

At the same time we see that our world is interdependent. Our weather and the continued effort are worldwide phenomena and our responsibility. We see that India pollutes China that in turn pollutes the West Coast of the U.S. We also understand there is another chemical that needs to be covered by the Montreal Protocol in order to continue our progress against ozone destruction.

We must not forget the ozone depletion and the danger an ozone hole represents to life on earth. We must continue our forward movement. We must also continue to support those scientists and countries that are fighting to protect our ozone.

Use the following links to access additional information or the original documents used to formulate this article.

http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/hfc-negotiations-under-the-montreal-protocol-inch-forward

http://www.mepielan-ebulletin.gr/default.aspx?pid=18&catigoryld=12&articleld=215&article=montreal-protocol-inches-closer-to-negotiations-on-hfc-phase-down (Scroll down on right to this article)

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n9/full/ngeo2493.html

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-263

http://phys.org/news/2015-08-china-exporting-ozone-pollution.html

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n3/full/ngeo2363.html

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Faster Glacier Retreat as Court & Scientists Speak

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Jerry

Two independent reports give separate results to explain away the lack of increase in the average world temperature beginning in 2000 and lasting about a decade.   They both come to the conclusion there was no long pause in the rise of the world’s average temperature – in other words it kept rising.

The first study that was conducted by researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology said the apparent period of no growth was caused by a decade long shift of ocean heat collection to another area.  Their study found a heating of the top layer of water in the Indian Ocean with some residual heating still in the Pacific Ocean.  This heating offset a corresponding temperature stability or change in the rest of the Pacific Ocean.

This study shows the shifting heat from one region to another as cooler ocean water absorbed more heat to bring its heat into balance with the other oceans.  The research shows this phenomenon started in 2003 and lasted some ten years or so.  As a result you should conclude there was no pause in the rise of the world’s heat.  It was absorbed by another region of the ocean.

Researchers from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and LMI in McLean, Virginia conducted the second study.  It re-examined data and estimates used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It finds that the data trends used by the IPCC were less than was justified by what the data actually showed.  This was especially true for recent decades where “the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century.”  This data does not support the notion of any slowdown at all in the rate of global warming.

In related activities a top court has ruled that a country must increase its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.  The government of the Netherlands was ordered by a court in The Hague to increase its commitment to cut at least 25% of its greenhouse-gas emissions by the year 2020 from levels in the year 1990.  The upcoming European Union (EU) obligations would require the government of the Netherlands to target a 17% reduction.  The Court has ruled this level is not enough in response to a lawsuit brought by an environmental group named Urgenda.

Two more studies of glaciers have not given us any good news.  One study conducted by scientists at the World Glacier Monitoring Service completed an analysis of more than 47,000 separate observations dating back to the 1600’s.  They conclude that glaciers are shrinking almost twice as fast as they were during the late twentieth century.

A second study offers an explanation at least for glaciers in Greenland that explains their rapid rate of disappearance.  It appears these glaciers are more susceptible to global warming than was thought.  This is because the use of sonar under the surface of the ocean has shown that the glaciers go hundreds of meters farther down under the water than previously thought or reflected on maps.  This allows their ice to come into greater contact with the warmer layers of water in the Atlantic Ocean.  This produces more melting of the glaciers than previously thought.

All of this shrinkage does not bode well for coastal areas around the world that are concerned about rising ocean levels.  They were hoping for at least some refuge from global warming and its negative effects.  This does not appear to be the case and will prompt continued monitoring of melting ice and the resulting sea levels around the world.

Of course the solution to this problem is to decrease temperature rise by putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  In other words we must slow the rate of global climate change.

Use the following links to access additional information or look at the original documents used to prepare this article.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6247/532.abstract?sid=8561f70d-3348-4558-9014-aaf361a2fb57

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6242/1469.abstract?sid=d0f4aa33-6a47-45a9-ad7e-9cfc12a808f9

http://www.nature.com/news/landmark-court-ruling-tells-dutch-government-to-do-more-on-climate-change-1.17841

http://www.nature.com/news/the-week-in-science-7-13-august-2015-1.18155 (scroll down to Trend Watch)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v524/n7563/full/524009a.html

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