Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector. Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector.”Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel.

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

3 things needed for #greengrowth: #energy, responsible resource management; good governance

Three areas are critical to achieve this: access to energy, responsible resource management, and good governance.

First, people need access to energy to leave poverty behind. But the energy sector also has a very high potential for reducing poverty while making “green” gains.
However, the electricity challenge remains daunting. In Ethiopia, with a population of 91 million people, 68 million are living in the dark. Without electricity children cannot do homework at night, people cannot run competitive businesses, and countries cannot power their economies.
This is why access to sustainable energy is a development goal in itself. According to the latest data, more poor people are gaining access to electricity at a faster rate than ever before. But the gains in renewables and progress in efficiency are too slow. Almost 3 billion still cook with polluting fuels like kerosene, charcoal and dung.
The second critical area for a sustainable and inclusive growth shift is responsible resource management.
The fishery sector, for example, holds many opportunities for smart and sustainable resource management.
A well-managed “blue” economy can ensure food security, promote sustainable tourism, and build resilience. Ineffective fish-stock management and illegal fishing waste $75 billion to $125 billion of global output annually, undermining food security and forgoing revenue.
Indonesia has more than 2.6 million fishermen. It is the world’s second-largest producer of wild-capture fish. 
If it improves governance of the fisheries sector and invests in large scale maritime transport and trade infrastructure, it can double fish production by the year 2019. 
Governance is the third area which needs urgent attention. For many countries, this is the biggest challenge.
Estimates suggest that illegal logging generates approximately $10 billion to $15 billion annually worldwide.
This is a problem of implementing existing regulations or designing better laws. And it is a global issue, rife in many resource-rich countries.
Improving transparency and monitoring is key. Government agencies often don’t know the extent to which sectors are sustainable and which natural resources are being depleted.
The energy sector, for example, needs more and better data on simple energy use and emissions. This comprehensive “green accounting” is currently lacking.
But it is also a matter of leadership, building consensus, taking on vested interests and juggling trade-offs to make the shift from ‘dirty’ and exclusive to sustainable and inclusive growth. 
So how can we overcome the obstacles to making growth sustainable and inclusive?
There are many who fear that greening growth is too expensive, could slow output, or should concern only high-income countries. This fear is short-sighted. Sustainable growth is neither unaffordable nor is it technically out of reach.
But it comes with challenges, including large up-front costs and long-term financing of 15 to 25 years. Few developing countries have suitable capital markets or banking sectors.
Improving the energy mix, for example, will reduce both environmental and fiscal risks. Turkey drastically reduced the share of oil in favor of gas. Thailand has decreased its dependency on petroleum products, from two-thirds to a third.
Another challenge is cost recovery and the right policy environment that ensures we are not only building schools, but also improve education. No power station is of use if the utility company is operating at a massive loss. Few infrastructure projects can charge at full cost. So we should find ways to ease cost recovery, while keeping services affordable for low-income families and communities.
We need to use our opportunities wisely. From 2011 to 2012, investments in clean technology in developing countries increased by 19%. And 90% of clean technology businesses increased their revenue even during the global economic downturn.
China has grown by double digits for decades, but lost a staggering 9% of its expected GDP to “brown growth.” In response, China is shifting economic activity to innovation and higher value-added production.
East Asia could take the lead on green development. Cambodia and Vietnam have integrated green growth plans into economic policies. Thailand’s most recent multi-year development plan includes a goal to reduce energy intensity by 25% by the year 2030.
Others can learn from these experiences. The good news is that more and more countries, developed and developing countries, now understand that their success will depend on how they will grow, not just by how much.
This blog is based on a speech delivered in June 2015.

Source: The Case For Inclusive Green Growth

3 things needed for #greengrowth: #energy, responsible resource management; good governance

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

A look at how our Soils help to combat climate change in their role of sequestering CO2, and how our collective habits can damage this benefit with potentially devastating consequences.

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Energy access is a basic requirement for human development and well-being, but it is vastly different for the poorest 3 billion people on Earth than it is for the richest 1 billion. The top billion consume 50 per cent of available fossil energy while—more than two centuries after the industrial revolution—the poorest 3 billion are still forced to rely on traditional fires (fueled by wood, dung, agricultural waste, charcoal and coal) to cook and heat their homes. One third of them are also forced to use kerosene and candles for lighting. This imbalance in access to modern energy comes at enormous costs to human health and the environment, and creates further disparities in how the effects of those costs are experienced.

In their use of fossil fuels, the top 1 billion contribute more than half the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. If they (and the middle-income 3 billion) continue current rates of fossil fuel consumption, the world will witness warming of 2°C or more in a few short decades. The brunt will be borne by the bottom 3 billion, who live on the edge of subsistence and are most vulnerable to the resulting droughts or other changes in weather and climate.

At the same time—through being limited to using inefficient cooking fires and lamps—the poorest 3 billion are exposed to large quantities of soot (or black carbon) and brown carbon. Once emitted, black carbon particulates both escape into the atmosphere and contribute to household health risks. They are unquestionably deadly. About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

Such household emissions may also contribute as much as 20 per cent to black carbon emissions worldwide. This is vastly significant because black carbon (from stoves and other sources) is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and leads to crop loss, deforestation and the melting of glaciers, threatening critical food and water sources.

About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

The consequences of energy imbalance are dire.

But the new United Nations initiative Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to provide access to sustainable and renewable energy sources to everyone, is unprecedented and extremely productive.

The health benefits of providing energy to the bottom 3 billion would be far ranging, and the climate benefits would be felt by all.

Project Surya, which we lead, focuses on clean energy solutions for the poorest that achieve benefits in health, climate and sustainability by employing clean cooking and lighting technologies that reduce smoke emissions by 90 per cent or more. One chronic issue with these advanced technologies—which still use locally available solid biomass— is that with the added performance comes additional cost. The costs—typically, about six weeks of income for rural households—along with the lack of robust supply chains, inhibit scaling up the technologies to the hundreds of millions of households where they are needed.

Yet the use of advanced energy technologies enables us to leverage the link between household pollution and climate change. Surya now provides users of advanced improved stoves with the credit they deserve for mitigating climate change. Households that employ them generate quantifiable reductions in black carbon and carbon dioxide, with direct positive impacts on the climate—and so should be able to sell the resulting credits in a market. Much as a company can sell carbon credits for cleaning up its operations, we believe individual women should also receive financial benefits for their actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon.

Generating carbon credits for switching to improved stoves is nothing new. After all, burning firewood leads to 1-2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. The contributions from each household do not reflect the total potential climate mitigation achieved, although improved stoves also help to reduce deforestation. But quantifying the black carbon reductions—which work separately from carbon dioxide—reveals that their true carbon savings are two to three times greater. Moreover, including black carbon may bring new investors and buyers to carbon markets because reducing it has more immediate climate mitigation impacts than cutting carbon dioxide and has clear health and sustainability benefits. So this new approach could catalyze new funds to support energy access at scale.

While this seems straightforward in principle, there are some formidable challenges. One example of these is verifying the use of clean stoves on a house-by-house basis. Another is accurately translating stove usage to “climate credits”, saleable via a carbon market (or results-based financing mechanism), which encompass reductions in both carbon dioxide and black carbon particulates from adopting the cleaner energy technology.
And a third is distributing the financial credits to the women using the stoves, or the stove distributor.

Project Surya’s Climate Credit Pilot Project (C2P2) combines cutting-edge air pollution and climate change science with pioneering wireless sensor technologies to work towards universal access to advanced cook stoves and solar lighting systems. Through an international partnership that includes NGOs, private donors, academics, government banks, The Gold Standard Foundation’s Voluntary Carbon market, rural entrepreneurs, village chiefs and small women’s groups, Surya uses wireless sensors integrated into kitchens to document climate credits generated by using improved stoves. Close to a quarter of households now use the improved stoves for 50-100 per cent of their daily cooking needs. Each household that uses the stove for all cooking could earn approximately $35 per year (assuming an estimate of $6 per tonne of CO2 equivalent). Carbon markets ensure a level of transparency and standardization of methods for verification and validation that will be important if this initiative is to scale up beyond Surya or any single institution. Surya is now working to expand this carbon market approach to encourage the adoption of clean lighting, as well as cooking, technologies.

Through this work, Project Surya is celebrating and rewarding the role of the poorest women in the world as climate warriors.

We acknowledge the contributions of Tara Ramanathan in leading the Nexleaf Analytics cookstove programme in the field and significant contributions from Omkar Patange in India. We thank Charlie Kennel and Ellen Lehman, Mac McQuown, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, UK AID, and the United Nations Environment Programme for their explicit support of C2P2.

Source: Credit Where it’s Due

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Bolivia passes “Law of Mother Earth” which gives rights to our planet as a living system

The Law of Mother Earth (“Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra”) holds the land as sacred and holds it as a living system with rights to be protected from exploitation, and creates 11 distinguished rights for the environment. It was passed by Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly. This 10 article law is derived from the first part of a longer draft bill, drafted and released by the Pact of Unity by November 2010. Can we please spread this law? There has to be a way for the free market to interoperate with reverence for this planet. Period.

In accordance with the philosophy of Pachamama, it states, “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all,” said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

The law enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth and her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled to:

  • To life It is the right to the maintenance of the integrity of life systems and natural processes which sustain them, as well as the capacities and conditions for their renewal
  • To the Diversity of Life: It is the right to the preservation of the differentiation and variety of the beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetecally altered, nor artificially modified in their structure, in such a manner that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential
  • To water: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
  • To clean air: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
  • To equilibrium: It is the right to maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes
  • To restoration: It is the right to the effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities
  • To live free of contamination: It is the right for preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_Rights_of_Mother_Earth

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/bolivias-law-of-mother-earth_n_848966.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/science/earth/14bolivia.html

http://www.newser.com/story/116229/bolivia-to-give-nature-same-rights-as-humans.html

Bolivia passes “Law of Mother Earth” which gives rights to our planet as a living system

10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are Awesome!

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Earthships are 100% sustainable homes that are both cheap to build and awesome to live in. They offer amenities like no other sustainable building style you have come across. For the reasons that follow, I believe Earthships can actually change the world. See for yourself!

1) Sustainable does not mean primitive

When people hear about sustainable, off-the-grid living, they usually picture primitive homes divorced from the comforts of the 21st century. And rightfully so, as most sustainable solutions proposed until now have fit that description. Earthships, however, offer all of the comforts of modern homes and more. I’ll let these pictures do the talking…

2) Free Food

Each Earthship is outfitted with one or two greenhouses that grow crops year-round, no matter the climate. This means you can feed yourself with only the plants growing inside of your house. You can also choose to build a fish pond and/or chicken coop into your Earthship for a constant source of meat and eggs.

3) Brilliant Water Recycling

Even the most arid of climates can provide enough water for daily use through only a rain-harvesting system. The entire roof of the Earthship funnels rain water to a cistern, which then pumps it to sinks and showers when required. That used ‘grey water’ is then pumped into the greenhouse to water the plants. After being cleaned by the plants, the water is pumped up into the bathrooms for use in the toilets. After being flushed, the now ‘black water’ is pumped to the exterior garden to give nutrients to non-edible plants.

4) Warmth & Shelter

The most brilliant piece of engineering in the Earthship is their ability to sustain comfortable temperatures year round. Even in freezing cold or blistering hot climates, Earthships constantly hover around 70° Fahrenheight (22° Celsius).

This phenomenon results from the solar heat being absorbed and stored by ‘thermal mass’ — or tires filled with dirt, which make up the structure of the Earthship. The thermal mass acts as a heat sink, releasing or absorbing heat when the interior cools and heats up, respectively.

The large greenhouse windows at the front of the house always face south to allow the sun to heat up the thermal mass throughout the daytime.

5) Energy

Solar panels on the roof and optional wind turbines provide the Earthship with all of the power it needs. As long as you’re not greedily chewing through electricity like a typical first-world human, you’ll never be short of power.

6) Freedom

With all of your basic needs provided for and NO bills each month, you’re free! You don’t have to work a job you hate just to survive. So you can focus your time on doing what you love, and bettering the world around you.

Imagine if the entire world was able to focus on doing extraordinary things instead of just making enough to get by. Imagine if even 10% of the world could do this. What would change?

7) Easy to build

At a recent Earthship conference in Toronto, Canada, a married couple in their forties shared about how they built a 3-story Earthship by themselves in 3 months. They had never built anything before in their lives and were able to build an Earthship with only the printed plans. They did not hire any help, nor did they use expensive equipment to make the job easier.

If one man and one woman can do this in 3 months, anyone can do it.

8) Cheap

Earthships are exorbitantly cheaper than conventional houses. If you built it yourself, the most basic Earthships cost as little as $20,000 (Simple Survival model) with the more glamorous model which you’re seeing here, the 2-Bedroom Global Model, costs $70,000 and up, depending on how flashy you want to be with your decorating.

With these cost options, Earthships can fit the needs of everyone — from the least privileged to the most worldly.

9) Made of recycled materials

Much of the materials used to build Earthships are recycled. For starters, the structure is built with used tires filled with dirt:

If there’s one thing we’re not short of on Earth, it’s used tires! There are tire dumps like the one pictured here in every country in the world. There are even places that will pay you by the tire to take them away.

The walls (above the tires) are created by placing plastic and glass bottles in concrete. When the Earthship team was in Haiti after the earthquake, they employed local kids to both clean up the streets and provide all of the bottles required for building their Earthship. Plus, they look pretty sexy.

10) Think Different

The most powerful thing Earthships do is force people to think differently about how we live. If housing can be this awesome, and be beneficial to the environment, then what else can we change? What else can become more simple, cheaper and better at the same time?

It’s time for us to re-think much of what we consider normal.

Earthships

10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are Awesome!