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.


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.

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


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