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Green Dream
Finding Profit Motives for Saving the Planet

An Austin company is building a facility that will capture carbon emissions from a Texas-based cement manufacturing plant and use that carbon to produce industrial chemicals. The New York Times reports:

Instead of mining natural deposits of carbon found underground, the plant will capture the carbon emitted from making cement — a rich source — and use it to produce chemicals like sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid by reacting it with rock salt. […]

“It’s the largest carbon-capture plant in the world that isn’t on the pump-it-in-the-ground cycle,” said Joe Jones, the president and chief executive. Most of the carbon goes into a solid mineral, sodium bicarbonate.

Cement plants are prolific producers of carbon dioxide; in addition to burning coal for energy, they release carbon when limestone is converted to lime. But Skyonic’s technique will also work in the smokestacks of electricity generating plants that run on coal or natural gas, the company said…

Skyonic is doing all of this with government assistance, so this isn’t purely a story about industry triumphing over the evil forces of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is an encouraging sign on two fronts.

First, environmental externalities like pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource depletion are being seen as wasteful by companies looking to boost profits. In this case, a firm sees carbon, an important feedstock for some chemical manufacturing, being needlessly exhausted into our atmosphere by concrete producers, and is looking to step in not out of a fondness for Gaia, but in a bid to make money. There are other examples of this: the fracking industry is hard at work on ways to recycle water to cut costs, and oil and gas drillers are developing new methods to capture more of the methane their drilling produces, and reduce flaring. In each of these cases, profit motives are producing environmental benefits. That’s encouraging.

This is also an example of progress on a kind of technology that could one day be a game changer. If we work out ways to profitably capture large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, we could effectively stop anthropogenic climate change. We’re still a long way from that scenario, but doom-and-gloom prognosticators would do well to remember that technological breakthroughs are a wild card that even our best climate models struggle to account for.

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  • truthsojourner

    And the climate change scam continues . . .

    • Tom

      Sort of. It’s more a matter of good resource management, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Andrew Allison

    Our enthusiasm should perhaps be tempered by the litany of reports, here and elsewhere, of the cost-ineffectuality of such schemes, their reliance upon government subsidies, and their bankruptcy rate.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Global Warming” is BS, so this is just more wasted taxpayer money.

  • Corlyss

    “Industry is doing its part to address humanity’s role in climate change:”
    I do wish these stories had the backstories of how the industry was shaken down by the envirothugs. No industry would be that stupid without some powerful inducements from the likes of the Sierra Club, like “if you spend x amount on bullsh*t climate change mitigation activities, we won’t sue you to stop that refinery, which would hold you up for at least 10 years, if not 20 . . . ” That’s how the treehuggers play the game.

  • stanbrown

    Saving the planet?!

    • stanbrown

      see 2:20 ->

  • FriendlyGoat

    I’m glad TAI is not as deep in the pool of ACC denial as many of its readers are.

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