Capture carbon dioxide to reduce climate change

Source: By John R. Snyder, Post Register • Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2020

 Microsoft Corporation gets the first part of the reality check. On Jan. 16 Microsoft President Brad Smith announced their goals to be carbon negative by 2030, to remove historical carbon emissions by 2050 and to invest $1 billion over the next four years to fund innovation in reducing, capturing and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

However, they miss the second. Renewable energy, i.e., solar and wind power, has not, and never will, reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One hundred percent renewable energy goals are cruel and extremely dangerous public deception. So, what’s the alternative?

There are two ways to stop future emissions of CO2: stop burning fossil fuels or start capturing the CO2 from existing coal and industrial plants. The first option destroys global economies. The second creates millions of high-paying jobs and economic development while reversing global warming and, therefore, climate change.

We recycle aluminum to save energy and reduce the amount extracted from ores. We recycle and ban plastics. We recycle paper to save forests. We recycle copper to minimize the environmental impact. We can recycle CO2 too.

Carbon dioxide from coal and industrial plant emissions and the atmosphere can be captured, stored and recycled into most of the carbon-based fuels used today, e.g., synthetic or blended diesel, jet and gasoline fuels. The transportation and agricultural sectors can achieve net-zero carbon emissions without electrifying them. Recycled synthetic fuels will eliminate urban smog.

Why isn’t CO2 recycled? It costs too much. It’s cheaper to dump it into the atmosphere than to recycle it. And it needs energy to power the process. For now, that energy comes from fossil fuels.

When federal policies paved the way for renewable energy to create jobs and stimulate energy independence in 1978, solar and wind power were not commercially viable either. In the 40 years since then, what happened? Solar power in California is so cheap at times that utilities are paid to use it. There are seemingly as many windmills in Iowa as corn plants. And a large chunk of the corn grown in Iowa (captured and stored CO2) is now recycled into ethanol and blended with gasoline.

Cheap solar and wind power didn’t just happen. They were created with three simple government tools: mandates (renewable portfolio standards), tax credits (investment and production) and printing money (renewable energy credits).

The same tools, if applied to recycled CO2, would have the same impact, i.e., create jobs, economic development and reverse global warming.

Investment in capturing, sequestering and recycling CO2 would dramatically reduce the cost of recycled CO2. Cheap, carbon-free electricity from large hydropower plants, wind and solar farms, and soon from small modular reactors, eliminates the need for fossil fuel process energy.

Synthetic diesel and jet fuel would no longer contain sulfur and nitrate oxides. Smog in urban environments can eventually be eliminated. Fossil fuel companies become willing partners in reducing greenhouse gas rather than demonized polluters.

The technology needed to capture, store and recycle CO2 from emissions and the atmosphere exists in small, commercially viable demonstration projects. What’s needed is to simply use available government tools to scale the technology to gigaton capacities.

But without markets for captured CO2, Microsoft will waste their billion-dollar investment. That’s where you come in, Rep. Simpson and Gov. Little. Mandatory capture and use of recycled CO2 is a meaningful, effective alternative to the Green New Deal. Jobs are created and economic development stimulated. U.S. technology is created that can be exported to the world. It’s a winning solution for everyone.

John R. Snyder is a retired commercialization manager for Idaho National Laboratory.