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Is This the Future of Clean Energy?

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Monoliths were first made famous in the sci-fi masterpiece 2001, A Space Odyssey, but now a different sort of monolith  could be moving from fiction to reality in the near future. Columbia University professor Peter Eisenberger hopes to use monoliths—a component similar to the catalytic convertor that cleans up a car’s exhaust—to pull carbon dioxide out of the air.

The potential is huge: once captured, the carbon dioxide captured by monoliths can be used to feed algae which in turn can produce fuel oil. But Eisenberger is quick to note that his monolith technology is still in its very early stages and not ready for any kind of widespread commercial development. Currently it is neither cost-effective nor practical to install enough monoliths to balance the amount of carbon dioxide we’re emitting, though one day that could change.

But as NPR reports, some greens are concerned more with the politics of Eisenberger’s work, rather than its potential:

“It’s catchy,” Socolow admits. “It’s attractive conceptually that one could basically pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for the next several decades and pull it out later and everything would be fine.” But the appeal of the idea also worried him — people might use the mere prospect of this technology as an excuse not to act.

So Socolow spearheaded a critique of the technique, on behalf of the American Physical Society. […]

Researchers currently working on carbon dioxide capture technologies say the American Physical Society critique has made it much harder for them to raise money. Klaus Lackner at Columbia University says he was turned down for a government grant. David Keith at Harvard and the University of Calgary says he struggled to get funding for his small company.

Rather than getting behind promising ideas like this and pressing for more research into potential fixes, some short-sighted greens are trying to stop them in their tracks—not because they’re bad ideas, but because they would make it difficult for them to continue using scare tactics about the imminent death of the planet. This is a shame. These kinds of ideas are going to be critical to how we adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, and we’d like to see more money spent on research and development for ideas like this. Greens should be behind this kind of research as well; goodness knows that today’s current crop of green technology isn’t up to the task.

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  • Kavanna

    The problem isn’t just the starving of basic research — research without immediation applciation — in this context, even more importantly, without politicization. It’s the lock that the absurd politics of “climate change” that has destroyed much of intellectual and funding climate for both practical commercial ideas and for basic research.

    By its nature, basic research cannot be preloaded with prejudicial and preconceived conclusions. But that is what we have now.

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