|Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel
In order to deal with climate change,
corporate greed and political inertia, a multitude of new energy solutions are
required. While renewable solar and wind power is an important piece of the
puzzle, scientists are also developing clever ways to capture existing carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into usable fuel. This transformative
process almost sounds too good to be true, with “direct air capture” technology
able to clean up the environment and produce eco-friendly liquid fuel at the
Also known as carbon sequestration, this
technology may become integral in dealing with the accumulation of greenhouse
gases. Not only does it produce usable fuel for existing vehicles, it has a
carbon negative impact on the environment by pulling existing CO2 from the air.
Researchers from Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering recently
carried out a study in partnership with Harvard, with the results published in
the scientific journal Joule in 2018. According to their calculations, one metric
ton of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere for as little as $94.
Carbon sequestration has been known for a
long time, but was thought to be prohibitively expensive until recently.
According to David Keith, Harvard Professor and founder of Carbon Energy,
“Until now, research suggested it would cost $600 per ton to remove CO2 from
the atmosphere using DAC technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible
solution to removing legacy carbon at scale.” Reducing the cost changes
everything, with governments and corporations likely to get on-board if and
when carbon negative targets become the new reality.
Much more than a pipe dream, this
"direct air capture" technique has been removing CO2 from the
atmosphere since 2015. While current operational capacity is limited to a small
plant in British Columbia, the team at Carbon Engineering will be ready to
start industrial-scale operations by 2021. With the phrase "climate change
emergency" now in common use, and more nations shifting towards carbon-neutral
targets, this technology could become an important part of the new energy
paradigm, especially during the transition period to renewables.
Essentially, this technology means you can
recycle your fuel just like you recycle your milk bottles. When the carbon
dioxide is combined with hydrogen and water, it is chemically identical to
standard fuels but without the associated pollution of the fossil fuel
industry. While thousands of plants would need to be developed around the world
to perform this miracle, amazingly, no-one would need to invest in a new
vehicle. Cars and trucks account for 20% of all CO2 pollution, with this
technology providing fuel for all existing vehicles with no modifications
Because CO2 is uniformly distributed across
the world, the plants could be installed absolutely anywhere. While the plants
themselves require energy to run, the amount of power required is getting
smaller all the time. The current plant is actually carbon neutral because it
uses renewable hydro energy on-site to help power the transformation process.
According to Mr Keith, “This isn’t going to save the world from the impacts of
climate change, but it’s going to be a big step on the path to a low-carbon