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Cool Green Tech
A Climate Solution to Get Excited About

The granular details of climate change may be difficult to unpack, but at the most general level we understand that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap more of the sun’s radiation within our atmosphere, raising surface temperatures. Reducing GHG emissions is a pressing but difficult task because it so often involves constraining economic growth, which is why a new breakthrough from scientists at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is so encouraging. Researchers say they’ve discovered a method to convert carbon dioxide into usable ethanol in a process that could make emissions reductions profitable. Popular Mechanics has the story:

[R]esearchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles. […]

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

The big test, of course, will come when this process is moved out of the laboratory and into the real world—we can’t anoint this as a workable solution until it’s proven to be commercially viable and scalable. But it’s exactly the sort of potential fix that we’re going to need if we want to tackle our admittedly enormous climate problem.

Greens have gotten very good at painting an apocalyptic vision of our future in a crowded, warming world, but that dim outlook ignores our capacity to solve problems. The pace of technological change is accelerating, and it’s bringing with it a host of new possibilities, like this new method of converting CO2 into fuel.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Just for the record, the enormous increase in atmospheric CO2 during the past 20 years has had minimal effect on temperature.

  • Frank Natoli

    Democrats may believe that there is “free” health care, but Nature isn’t a Democrat.
    If you take a carbon fuel, perhaps something as simple as methane, CH4, and oxidize with 2O2, resulting in CO2 and 2xH2O, you end up with the same number of atoms, but the molecular re-arrangement is courtesy of a release of energy, heat, to run your home furnace, or power plant gas turbine, etc.
    One cannot abracadabra CO2 into a “usable fuel”, i.e., a candidate for oxidization, without putting energy back in. And where would that energy come from? Less home heating? Less electricity generated?
    A much simpler solution would be sending the environmental maniacs to Madagascar and leave us alone. Unfortunately, they are in the majority, and will impose HRC and “necessarily skyrocketing” energy costs on all of us.
    Thank you, Democrat voters.

    • Blackbeard

      All true, but the problem with most renewable energy technologies is that they are intermittent and not dispatchable and we have no scaleable cost-effective energy storage technology. But if this technology really works we could then convert that intermittent electricity into a practical liquid fuel that is storable. This would truly be revolutionary.

      • Andrew Allison

        Not quite all true. Democrats (of which I am NOT one) know that there’s no such thing as free health care. Let’s face it, the only logical solution to the US health INSURANCE disaster is Medicare, which is not free. I couldn’t agree more with the rest of Mr. Natoli’s comment.

        • M Snow

          Great entry on the project to differentiate between “care” and “insurance.” It’s an endless task.

      • Frank Natoli

        It would be. And we should all live so long. But I don’t think it or we will.
        Being the snakes that they are, the Left twists the language at every turn, in this context, using the term “renewable”, you know, kind of like the lease on an apartment. But none of the “renewables” are leases on apartments, solar and wind are both indirect benefits of sunlight, which of course is a thermonuclear reaction transmitted over a 93,000,000 mile space. One way or another, to quote Deborah Harry, you gotta have a reaction of some type, thermonuclear, nuclear or plain old fashioned chemical, that releases energy. Nothing magical or “free” about any of it.

  • rpabate

    There is a reason for CO2’s minimum effect. CO2’s ability to absorb infrared light decreases as CO2 concentrations increase. This is scientifically known. That is why all the climate models need to incorporate so called “positive feedbacks” for the models to project temperature increases that the alarmist claim will be catastrophic. All the feedbacks that influence the earth’s climate are poorly understood and there is no certainty that the sum of them will be positive. What we have is in essence “faith-based science”. This is particularly ironic since the Progressive Left has consistently ridiculed faith-based religion. There is a far bigger problem: which is that ,many fields of science have been corrupted. We no longer have evidenced-based policy. We now have policy-based evidence. Read “The Rightful Place of Science; Science on the Verge”

  • markterribile

    Notice however that you have to put energy in to get fuel out (otherwise you’d have a perpetual motion machine). That energy could come from nuclear, maybe in the future from nuclear fusion, from wind, solar, geothermal (if we can find enough), hydro (if we can find more), solar, wind or tidal. None of these is an ideal solution.

  • Proud Skeptic

    Interesting…yes. I always enjoy reading about new technologies for producing energy. “To get excited about”? Nope. If this ever proves to be scalable or affordable I will get excited. In the meantime these things come out all the time and they all seem to end up in a hole someplace.

  • Pait

    May I respectfully suggest that, before discussing the use of a perpetual motion mechanism as a answer to energy or environmental problems, one should brush up on elementary thermodynamics?

    Turning CO2 into fuel will require at least as much energy as was generated by burning the fuel.

  • Via Meadia seem to be suckers for the perpetual motion machine. It works great: covert CO2 to ethanol, and then burn ethanol to get CO2. Apparently it’s downhill both directions.

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