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Goodbye Global Warming!...Hello Terraforming? 466

Posted by Hemos
from the not-bloody-likely-anytime-soon dept.
silance writes "Here is an article from Science Daily detailing a new method for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large scale and at normal concentrations. Previous systems require placement near high concentration centers such as power plants, and do not address low-concentration sources (such as internal combustion engines) which are responsible for half of the world's carbon dioxide pollution. The article descibes the technology as scalable to the point of repairing Earth's atmosphere to pre-Industrial-Age levels! Next stop, Mars..." I seem to remember something like this in SimEarth ? - but I'm not going to hold my breath (Ha! I pun!) waiting for this.
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Goodbye Global Warming!...Hello Terraforming?

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  • What about trees? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:07AM (#3342862) Journal
    When did trees go out of fashion?

    Why invest so much money trying to replicate what just about all plants do naturally? I mean, geez, perhaps we will surpass plants' abilities to process Carbon Dioxide, but do you think it will run on water, Carbon Dioxide & dirt?
    • by HiQ (159108)
      to harvest carbon dioxide from the air, reducing buildup of the so-called "greenhouse gas" in the atmosphere and allowing it to be converted into fuel.
      Well, the last part says it all. They can convert it back into fuel. On the other hand, a tree is also fuel, but you try shove a tree up your tank the next time you go for gas!.
      Mind you, hope they don't suffocate the trees by extracting too much carbon dioxide.
      • by Exedore (223159)

        On the other hand, a tree is also fuel, but you try shove a tree up your tank the next time you go for gas.

        In some parts of the U.S. we already do... up to 10% of the fuel at most gas stations around here is ethanol. Well, okay, it's grain alcohol not wood alcohol, but you get the idea.

        It was an interesting concept at its inception back in the late 70's/early 80's (I think), but it hasn't quite lived up to expectations. I think it's stuck around more as a farmer subsidy kind of thing than an effective way of reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Oh, and I think engine and fuel system longevity is harmed somewhat, too.

      • You can put a tree in your gas tank. You just have to bury it really deep and wait a few million years.
      • by sydneyfong (410107)
        if you want to turn carbon dioxide into fuel you'd need to input energy during the conversion. A LOT of energy too. Most of our energy comes from fossil fuels. and we aren't using the energy we got from fossil fuels to convert CO2 back into fuels!!! I don't think anybody is interested in doing that, unless the gas gets really annoying and there's a much better alternative energy source to provide the energy for conversion.
        • by hansover (572143)
          Seems like a great technology to be coupled with Solar Cells, considering that some of the larger problems with Solar energy is the need to use it or lose it and the limited portability of large collections of cells. If Solar energy is used to supply the energy for the conversion process then we would again have storable, portable octane or other carbon based fuel of choice.
      • Re:What about trees? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GreyPoopon (411036)
        Well, the last part says it all. They can convert it back into fuel.

        Later in the article, they actually say that the CO2 is used to process the petroleum. In light of that, I found the following interesting.

        Cost of the entire process is equivalent to about 20 cents per gallon of gasoline - a nominal cost when one considers the recent price fluctuations at gasoline pumps across the nation, Dubey said.
        So, does that 20 cents per gallon include an estimated return on providing petroleum processors with the large amounts carbon dioxide they need? If not, would include that into the equation yield a solution that is cost neutral? Or maybe even cheaper overall? That would be cool. Those places out west that get to pay a premium for gasoline could reduce their costs because there is a CO2 reprocessing center in the nearby desert.
    • Re:What about trees? (Score:2, Informative)

      by WetCat (558132)
      Actually, it's a common misunderstanding.
      Trees has breathing, too.
      And the balance from the trees are near zero.
      The most part of CO2 -> O2 is done by phitoplankton in oceans.
    • Actually, a better choice would be to plant crops that could be converted into fuel such as biodiesel. That way the C02 emitted at the tailpipe would be balanced by the C02 captured by the fuel plants, less lossage. I don't know if this is a permanent solution because of the long term demands on arable land, but it could be a way of replacing some carbon emissions whose source is mineral with carbon emissions whose source is atmospheric.
    • by Cade144 (553696)
      Trees went out of fashion because they are vulnerable to the very problem we are trying to solve, global warming.
      Most species of trees have limited hability zone, raise or lower the temperature or annual rainfall, and the trees die. Dead trees decompose and give off methane (also a greenhouse gas) and C02.

      Also, when was the last time you saw engineers tearing up a freeway, parking lot, or strip mall to plant a forest? Current land-use trends are for less greenspace, not more.

      • Re:What about trees? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by JordanH (75307)
        There are huge areas of Russia and Canada that would support more plant life if it were warmer. Also, very hot (and humid) regions support some of densest growth known.

        A general heating of the atmosphere may support a great deal more plant life than we have now.

        Seems like a fairly dangerous experiment, however. But, if as some are saying that some global warming is here and there will be a trend for some years that's irreversible even if we drastically cut emissions, it might not be a bad thing.

        • by morcego (260031)
          Well, isn't that tipical. Hey, let USA produce CO2 and all other green house gasses, and let the rest of the world take care of it.
          Sorry, I don't mean to attack you personaly, but this is something really anoying. Why has the USA refused (AFAIK, the only one to refuse) to sign that protocol/treat that would stablish rules about CO2 production (and other atmospheric emissions) ?
          The USA is currently the country that polutes our atmosphere the most, while also trying to boss all other countries what they can do with their forests. I live in Brazil, so I know every well how much USA is bossing about the Amazon Forest. Then I ask, where are YOUR forests ? Oh, did you cut all the trees ? Thought. Now, take care of your all problem.
          If you really want to have a part of the Amazon forest, what compensations do you of offer ?
          And that is not only the USA. It's a thing we see all contries doing. Brazil does it too with other countries (not about forest, but about other issues). It's the same old story about dumping ones junk on the neighbour's year. If each country would be primarily concerned about it's own junk, we would solve most of the problem.
          This CO2 extractor follows the same principle. It tries to circunvect the problem, not solve it. How long before the production of CO2 is greater then these extractors can handle ?
          Brazil is a small fish of a country, but we managed to reduce the polution created by cars in about 20%, using alchool based fuels, and another few percent points by mixing some of this alchool on out gas. As far as I know, it's the only country where the usage of alchool fuel for cars really worked (not like ethanol in USA, where it's only in some isolated places).
          Yes, removing some of the CO2 from the atmosphere is good, but we don't work on reducing the amount of polution produced, we are only delaying the inevitable.
          • Re:What about trees? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by JordanH (75307)
            • Why has the USA refused (AFAIK, the only one to refuse) to sign that protocol/treat that would stablish rules about CO2 production (and other atmospheric emissions) ?

            I really don't want to get into this, but. First, a lot of countries have not signed Kyoto. Second, Kyoto has more to do with transfer of economic power from the US to other countries than it does with reducing greenhouse gases. Under Kyoto, countries like China are largely exempt and will begin producing more heavily. Either you are for reducing greenhouse gases or you aren't, I say. This treaty is a sham designed to hurt the US.

            • I live in Brazil, so I know every well how much USA is bossing about the Amazon Forest.

            Bossing? I think we're just buying them. If you don't like losing them, stop selling them to us. Of course, this ignores the fact that US activists are in the forefront of trying to protect rain forests, even establishing funds to buy up huge swaths in an effort to protect them.

            Aren't a lot of the rain forest cut down to support indigenous agriculture? If this is the case, stop increasing your population and stop blaming the US on all the ills of the world.

            • Oh, did you cut all the trees ? Thought. Now, take care of your all problem.

            We didn't cut down all of our trees. There are huge forests in the US. I believe I read that there are more trees now than 30 years ago through careful management. We may have increased our consumption our trees from Brazil, but that's because many of the fine woods are not and have never been available in the US are plentiful down there. Oh, I think you'll find the Japanese and others, not just Americans, buy a lot of that wood, too.

            • Brazil is a small fish of a country, but we managed to reduce the polution created by cars in about 20%, using alchool based fuels, and another few percent points by mixing some of this alchool on out gas. As far as I know, it's the only country where the usage of alchool fuel for cars really worked (not like ethanol in USA, where it's only in some isolated places).

            I'm no chemist, but I think you'll find that alcohol produces very similar CO2 output to Gasoline for the same energy produced. Alcohol doesn't produce the Sulphur, CO1 and other nasty pollution that Gasoline produces, but similar CO2, I believe.

            • Re:What about trees? (Score:3, Informative)

              by Paul Komarek (794)
              I don't want to comment on everything you've written, just one statement:

              "I read that there are more trees now than 30 years ago through careful management"

              I've seen a fair number of replanted areas, and number of trees is not really the issue. The trees I've seen were pathetic toothpicks compared to the trees removed. They were overdense, and tended to break during winter freezes or high winds. You couldn't use them for lumber (well, you might get one 2x4 from each, and I suppose you could chip them), because they're too small. If these are the trees you've read about, then we haven't yet replaced any of what we've taken. It's not clear to me that these overdense tree plantings will ever resemble the forests they replace.

              -Paul Komarek
            • We didn't cut down all of our trees. There are huge forests in the US. I believe I read that there are more trees now than 30 years ago through careful management.
              Be cautious - this is the Weyerhauser spin on trees. There may or may not be more than 30 years ago (which was a really low point of environmental stewardship for our country), but the trees which have been "carefully managed" are softwood - i.e., pulp trees. In places where trees have been replanted, the ecosystems are not the same as they were.

              This treaty is a sham designed to hurt the US.
              This is energy company spin. While your points about the transfer of economic power are interesting, putting the "they're just out to get us" angle back in there makes your reply a counter-screed to the parent screed. Second, if the US derives economic power from activities which put a burden on the rest of the world, then we gotta make restitution, even if that involves a transfer of power. You gotta pay to play.

              If you don't like losing them, stop selling them to us.
              The "just stop selling them" argument is a little simplistic. By the same rights, the US has no business fighting a war on drugs abroad - we should "just stop" buying them. Even worse, it's totally cynical. You're suggesting that because we as the US have money, we're totally devoid of responsiblity for what happens when we throw it around, because after all, all those Congolese people "chose" to "sell" us their diamonds. Yes, there is an onus on Brazil to control it's own population and make sensible policy choices about their resources. But the onus is also on us to help them, because it's in our interests, as well as theirs to have less CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • by flipflapflopflup (311459) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:07AM (#3342863) Homepage
    Surely there must be some way to turn this into a weapon of some sort.

    It would make it easier to get funding.

  • In related news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:08AM (#3342869) Journal

    Researches found that if everybody planted a tree, the effect on global warming would be similar, and could result in a worldwide reduced cost for lumber...
    • ....but what fun is that... when it's so much more convenient for the powers that be to set up something huge and complex that they can overcharge us for...."for our own good"
    • by Argia (571476)
      Planting trees only works if you don't cut them down. They store the carbon in themselves. If you cut them down and break down the carbon bonds. Then the carbon gets released. They don't act as sinks. To do that they would have to put carbon into the ground. They only do that if something turns them into fossils. Of course raising shellfish would do the same, although on a smaller scale. But you are banking alot of calcium there too..

      • Depends if you cut them down and burn them, or
        let them decay, they don't act as sink, but if
        you cut them done and build houses (or shelves)
        cut of them, the've sink the carbon.

        Save the world: put up shelves.
    • Terraforming researchers announced that they would be starting a side business in do-it-yourself heart surgery.


      "The heart's just a pump, after all, and our models show us having 100% success rate," one of the researchers noted. The model show their procedure working so well, in fact, NCAR researchers have voted to rip out their excercise room and put in a walk in humidor.

  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:08AM (#3342871) Homepage Journal
    It's easy. Just send a settler unit to the polluted area, and they will take care of it in a tunr or two.

    (if you've played Civilization, you know what I mean)
  • At last! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Smuffe (152444)
    Large expanses of desert would not be affected by the CO2 deficit however, and could provide the wide-open spaces necessary both for the facility and to allow the discharged air to become well mixed with the atmosphere again.
    Wohoo! I know we would find a way to colonize the deserts. After all, it's about the only piece of land we haven't paved yet.....

    /Smuffe
    • Let's see.

      1 yard^2 per person in the world => 0.83 m^2 per person in the world ~> 5,016 km^2 desert. That's actually not very much.
  • Crazy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by photon317 (208409) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:11AM (#3342890)

    Messing with the planet is what got us here in the first place. Attempting to mess with it on a more massive scale is quite dangerous and stupid. Just stop polluting and let mother nature sort herself back out of the course of a few decades.
    • Re:Crazy (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by garcia (6573)
      I still say, pollute like hell, mother nature will fix herself anyway.

      If that means causing problems for our way of life, tough. We fucked up, she will fix it.

      It has happened before, it will happen again.
      • Re:Crazy (Score:2, Insightful)

        Normally when it happens, large numbers of animals die. What makes you so sure you won't be one of them?
        • by garcia (6573)
          not worried. not worried at all. If we die it was b/c we deserved it and the earth needed a change. It's all for the greater good.
          • Re:Crazy (Score:5, Interesting)

            by osgeek (239988) on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:03AM (#3343217) Homepage Journal
            I'm far from what you'd call an "Environmentalist", but I see a problem with your attitude.

            You're implying that there will be some type of binary decision made where we'll die if we continue to do the wrong thing. Instead, what will happen is we'll continue to survive as a species, but we'll just suffer like hell.

            Go to any poverty-stricken nation like India, where the environment has been totally abused by the populace. I have, and it's not pretty. Now imagine the whole world like that with huge stinking clouds of diesel fumes, covered with litter, horribly polluted water, etc.

            It's one thing to say, "well, whatever happens, happens" from the comfort of our modern lives. It's quite another thing to truly get a glimpse of what might happen to all of our lives if we aren't careful.

            I guess what I'm trying to say is: Get your head out of the sand and make sure that you truly understand the ramifications of your philosophy before you espouse it much further.
      • I still say, pollute like hell, mother nature will fix herself anyway.

        If that means causing problems for our way of life, tough. We fucked up, she will fix it.

        He's right you know people. Earth will go on no matter how much we pollute the earth!

        Of course, mammals like us won't do too well, but hey, they and reptiles have already had their turn at running the planet. Isn't it time we handed the planet over to insects?

      • Re:Crazy (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by medcalf (68293)
        There Will Come Soft Rains

        There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

        And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

        Robins will wear their feathery fire, Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

        And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done.

        Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly;

        And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone.

        Sara Teasdale


  • Ooh, SimEarth... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zaren (204877)
    I managed to get Mars terraformed in SimEarth within 50 years... wonder how quick it'll be able to happen in real life, since there aren't many ice meteors floating around for us to grab...

    Then again, it doesn't have to be done all at once. Scientists can start by just terraforming one chunk of Mars, and then build out from there. It would make sense to start near one of the poles, where there's a large concentration of ice; that would definitely make things easier at the start.

    -----
    Aww, FSCK! [cafepress.com]
  • OK, this sounds fine and dandy, but if we're vigorously scrubbing our environment of CO2 isn't there to much of a good thing?

    I mean, at what low levels of present CO2 is plant life starting to be affected? I would hate to crank up a system like this and see vast forests just dissapearing because of lack of CO2 levels. I assume there have to be some checks to how much we remove, but if profit is as stake, will there really be those checks?

    How can they really simulate this to test all the effects on our environment?

    We're looking at MASSIVE changes in our environment if they think they can just rollback the air to pre-industrial revoluiton air quality!

    • I assume there have to be some checks to how much we remove, but if profit is as stake, will there really be those checks?

      This would undoubtedly be a corporation doing it for the government. While there'd be the inevitable cost overruns, I have no doubt that profit motive wouldn't cause the company to overdo it. The reason is this: The government will pay the company its costs plus a reasonable (or not so reasonable) level of profit, regardless of its effectiveness. If CO2 levels get too low, the gubmint will undoubtedly be just as happy to pay them not to take C02 out as they were to pay them to do it. Just look at how profitable it is to not grow corn or pigs or tobacco!

      In all they heady corporate growth of the '90s, people of lost sight of that other great motivator of foolishness, bureaucratic inertia. The bureaucrats will have us paying for this long after its served its purpose, but they probably won't make it run amok.

      Still, we shouldn't go all the way back to 1750 CO2 levels, since that would probably leave us back in 'mini-ice-age' CO2 levels, which might not be optimal.

      By the way, if they're looking for a barren, lifeless desert to put it in, I nominate the Los Angeles Basin. There's nothing there that anybody would miss that much, and it would cut back tremendously on the work the CO2 scrubbers would have to do. Everybody wins!
  • by arivanov (12034) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:13AM (#3342905) Homepage
    As a chemist I can say that the idea of capturing CO2 with CaO on an industrial scale is extremely optimistic.

    It will consume huge amounts of energy to convert back and the efficiency will be very low. The figures come out so optimistic only if you forget about the fact that CaO gets covered by Ca carbonate quickly and in the absence of water the diffusion of CO2 to the remaining CaO will slow to a crawl.

    Only alternative to this is to disperse the CaO to micron sizes which means emitting insane amounts of dust into the atmosphere. Same is valid for extracting back. Unless you make the CaCO3 granules of micron or less size the energy efficiency in recovering CaO is very low.In either case you either need huge amounts of water or you will pepper with CaCO3 dust everything several thousands miles windward.

    This reeks of "reaserch" sponsored by specific global warming villains. Just the mentioning of "there is enough fossil fuels" about says it all. No names mentioned... We know them all...
    • If you read the article, the CaO is in solution, with the CaCO3 precipitating out, so the dust problem should be adequately controlled.

      I do agree with you about the amount of energy required to convert the CaCO3 back to CaO, I wonder if that will be from renewable sources that do not produce CO2?

      • I do agree with you about the amount of energy required to convert the CaCO3 back to CaO, I wonder if that will be from renewable sources that do not produce CO2?

        They can just setup a couple of Gas-Fired Powerplants upwind from the CO2 remotion plant.

        (Actually, this started as a joke, but it might even work if the ammount of energy generated in the Powerplants for each CO2 molecule produced is lesser than the energy spent removing each molecule from the air.
        It mostly depends on:
        - The energy gained when generating CO2 from gas + O2
        - The efficiency of the gas-fired powerplant
        - The energy that spent converting CaCO3 to CO2
        - The efficiency of the CaCO3->CO2 conversion
        )
    • by ipsuid (568665) <ipsuid@yahoo.com> on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:21AM (#3343371) Journal
      Lets take the chemistry a bit further...

      Converting the CaCO3 back into CaO will take a minimum of 176kJ/mol CaCO3. (CaCO3 + 176kJ -> CaO + CO2). Not even getting into thermodynamics, it will actually take more energy than that - since it can't be done in anything other than a CO2 atmosphere (since they want to recover the CO2).

      But for sake of argument, we will use the 176kJ figure. Now, it will take an enormous amount of HEAT to to release the CO2. How are we going to create this heat? How about fossil fuels!

      Let's say we use gasoline to heat the CaCO3 and recover the CO2. Gasoline is nearly the hotest burning fossil fuel. Oxidation(burning) of gasoline follows 2C8H12 + 25O2 -> 16CO2 + 18H2O + 5249kJ.

      Wow that's hot! Problem though - we just released 16CO2's in that reaction! No problem, we'll just scrub them out with all the rest of CO2 in the atmosphere (notice this machine is getting more and more complicated as we speak).

      The energy required to suck that CO2 that we just produced back into a bottle is going to cost us 2816kJ. Which leaves us with 2433kJ to extract more CO2. Unfortunately, the world isn't perfect and we are assuming 100% efficiency.

      What does that mean in the real world you ask? Well, given a 100% efficient blackbox into which we feed gasoline and air:

      To extract 1 ton of CO2, we will use about 1/4 ton of gasoline (.255ton), almost a ton of O2 (.894ton), and will produce nearly a half ton of H2O (.402ton).

      So for all our time and effort, we just created a larger demand for fossil fuels for a process which not only removes CO2 from the atmosphere, but also a NEARLY EQUAL AMOUNT OF OXYGEN!!!
  • by eples (239989) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:13AM (#3342906)

    a new method for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large scale and at normal concentrations

    In the study, the old method called Planting a tree, was found to be too conventional and made the landscape too pleasing to look at.

    But seriously, this is a GoodThing(tm).

  • "2 Weeks... euugghhhheuueuueuu.. 2 weeeeekkss..."
  • by Derkec (463377)
    This is very, very cool. But we should be very, very careful we know what's going on before we start experimenting with terraforming earth.
  • We'd better watch out... if we've now got terraformers, the next thing you know someone will have kept placing alien monoliths straight onto one protozoa until, lo and behold, "Protozoa have gone sentient!" Now we just have to wait for all those damn nanotech protozoa cities to blast off into orbit...
  • repairing Earth's atmosphere to pre-Industrial-Age levels!

    While I beleive that there is a definite global warming problem and that most people don't understand what that really means... (More severe, chaotic weater, just not hotter weather)

    I think that any radical change to the atmosphere should be taken with *EXTREME* caution so as to not make a bad situation worse.

    Anyone read Niven's 'Fallen Angels'?

    Before the turn of the century, it was not Global Warming that scientists were worried about, but Global Cooling. Several harsh and long winters, some due to violent volcano explosions, had decimated crops and reduced the world's food supply.

    Let us not forget that an ice-age will trap valuable freshwater that could otherwise be raining down on crops in the form of glaciers.

    Stopping the increase in and even reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses may be a very good thing, especially if it helps reduce the amount of incredibly severe weather caused by global warming.

    Reducing it to a set level just because we 'ought to' is not a bright idea.
    • Might happen anyway... between the aforementioned volcanic activity (I'd say we're due for a big blast, but then I'm not a geologist) and other natural factors, like iron-rich dust blowing off of Africa and spawning large algal blooms in the Atlantic (mentioned here [nasa.gov]), we could just as easily go backwards on the CO2 chart. Or, as mentioned here [nasa.gov], it may be the Amazon kicking it up a notch.

      Either way, like the old margarine commercial said, It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!

    • Global Cooling was the big environmental scare of the 1970's. By the mid-80's it was Global Warming.

      Here's a quick newsflash - there's *nothing* you can do about global warming. The greenhouse effect is tiny. What's happening is that we're moving out of a cloud of dust and gas, between us and the sun. In about 1000 years, not just the Earth, but all the outer planets too, will be much warmer. We also won't get meteor showers any more...
    • Let us not forget that an ice-age will trap valuable freshwater that could otherwise be raining down on crops in the form of glaciers.

      Can you get an umbrella big enough to deal with rain in the form of glaciers?

  • Power (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kensaro (441844)
    Hang on, you'd have to cook the stuff to get your lye back as well as pure CO2, wouldn't that require power? Hmmm, lets burn some fossile fuels to get that, we can burn unlimited amounts of fossile fuels now since we can just extract the CO2 from the air again.

    Oh, and I've got this model of a perpetum mobile for sale.....
  • *recalls a scene from the new Time Machine movie remake where the moon gets destroyed* :D

    There is no room for mistakes.
  • by Chayce (199487)
    But Quimby promised if he got elected as president he would HELP global warming so that we could turn antartica into a tropic paradise and also we could have all the fried fish we wanted from the gulf of mexico... I voted for him for president, why didnt you?
  • How many people want to wager that environmentalists will think this is a bad thing. Anything that will allow me to drive my SUV, can't be good, can it?
    • Re:Environmentalists (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elvum (9344)
      They'll be rightly sceptical, because the holes in the theory as presented in this article are big enough for you to drive your SUV through them quite comfortably.

      More to the point, how many people want to wager that the energy / motoring lobbies will take this single study and claim it as proof that people can pollute as much as they like, because their children will have the technology to clear up after them?
    • other people call it "leaving a potential death trap of a planet for our grand children".

      Of course, being a slashdotter, you probably won't get laid, and thus you don't care about the next generations of the species.
  • by bachelor3 (68410) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:16AM (#3342929)
    Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction...

    Just covering all our bases, I guess :)
  • other solutions? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apps (21158) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ebleppa}> on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:16AM (#3342930)
    For 20 cents per gallon, you could subsidise a better fuel such as Biodiesel [biodiesel.com] which absorbs more carbon while growing than it emits while being used as fuel.

    Also you could plant a lot of trees!!
  • by cperciva (102828) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:17AM (#3342939) Homepage
    Wouldn't such an operation require rather a large power budget?

    I think the first step in reducing athmospheric CO2 must be to stop the use of fossil fuels for large power plants where clear alternatives (eg, solar/wind/wave/tidal/nuclear) exist.
  • Oh, I get it. There's no need to cut down fossil fuel emissions or take active measures using existing technologies because this method of CO2 reduction will cure everything. We can continue living our lifestyles unaffected. Woohoo!

    I remember when the media latched onto the AIDS epidemic. People abstained because there was no cure. As soon as word got around that some researcher somewhere thought of an idea that could "cure" AIDS, the risky behaviour started again.

  • You pollute to the extreme, you see something happening... you wait till the last extreme minute and you do another 180 degree extreme solution to repair it.

    I mean this is like punching someone's face untill he's almost dead, and then applying bandages until he suffocates and overdosing him with painkillers. yeah, it might work, but there's always going to be permanent damages in the process, you cannot just do something massive on a planetary scale and "think it'll act like this" with no doubts.

    How can you tell that you could fix up the atmosphere to pre-industrial age and not suffocate plants (to name one "possible" example) if you cannot even predict weather correctly? how can you talk about a planetary system when you still have a hard time analyzing the data that you took a century to gather and trim?

    Of course, applying such a technology let's say, locally (i.e. car exausts, petro-chems, etc) would fix a BIG part of the problem and be more plausible. I just don't trust someone that comes and claim this big. I am all for revolution but in this case we need evolution (that doesn't mean I wouldn't want RAPID evolution), that way we can rollback if there's something going wrong.

    my 0.02.
  • How irresponsible... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DickPhallus (472621) on Monday April 15, 2002 @09:24AM (#3342991)
    Imagine No Restrictions On Fossil-Fuel Usage And No Global Warming

    I kind of found this headline a bit disturbing... I hate things like this because they really discourage any responsibilty... It reminds me of all those miracle diets; "Eat all the fatty foods you want and don't gain a pound." Seems like people today just don't want responsibility.

    I'm sure it would be a lot better on the planet on a whole if we aimed to reduce emmisions gradually, thus *if* there were any consequences to the environemnt they could probably be dealt with a lot easier than massive forest die-offs or the like.

    Of course reducing emissions need some sort of united effort *cough* kyoto *cough*...
    • by bnenning (58349)
      You're proving the point of the poster above who wrote
      How many people want to wager that environmentalists will think this is a bad thing. Anything that will allow me to drive my SUV, can't be good, can it?


      Seriously, if there were a way to generate enough energy and other resources for our current lifestyles with no environmental impact, how would that not be a good thing? If your goal is to protect the environment, then problem solved. It's only if your goal is to force others to live according to the lifestyle that you deem best that you wouldn't be pleased.

  • Remember Chemtrails?

    For anyone not following this bit of madness, Chemtrails are the contrails of jetaircraft that seem to have unusual persistence. The conspiracy folks have had a field day with this, and I remain somewhat skeptical.

    One angle on this (see site here [teksphere.com]) is the speculation that the chemtrails are caused by additives to the jetfuel designed to reduce global warming by reflecting more of the solar radiation into space.

    They even cite this US Patent (5003186) [uspto.gov] as proof of concept.

    truely strange stuff.

    The thought that someone may already be engineering or terraforming the earth is slightly disturbing.

  • An averge citizen in developed world generates 12 ton [eta.co.uk] of CO2 per year. Each hectare of forest can hold 200 ton [cseindia.org] of carbon in its life time. Assume the avg human life is 75 yrs, we need 4.5 hectare (45000 m2) of forest per person. Again assume the total population of the developed world will be 1 billion, we need to plant 45,000,000 km2 of forest, 4.5 times the size of China. Even if we can find enough land, the task is just gigiantic.

    (Well, I understand the ocean can absorb a lot of CO2, we also know there are natual forest. But, they are in equilibrium before Industrial Revolution. If our final target is to become "carbon netural", we need to fix all the carbon that we released from fossil fuel.)

    It seems obvious to me that cutting back the generation of CO2 is a must no matter what we are going to do next.
  • There isn't that much oil left to burn [dieoff.org] anyway. Of course, when the oil is done, out comes the coal.. Lofty treaties to limit emissions are doomed by the sad fact there are no good alternatives besides nuclear power, and research into those areas is either non-existant (fission) or outright shunned (cold fusion). Anyone who thinks you can replace the per-day energy consumption of the united states with solar panels and windmills needs a crash course on thermodynamics and a hard look at numbers.

    Global warming is the result of a deal with the devil we made for having an industrial society. It's too late to go back now, there's too many people on this planet - 6 billion, or so - and every last one of them wants to live like western europeans and americans.

    This sounds like a troll.. but this bitching over Koyoto pisses me off. It won't work. At least Bush has the balls to recognize that, although he hasn't said it outright.

  • Last time I checked, weren't we more worried about chemicals like carbon *monoxide*, heavy metals, and other compounds that can't easily be dealt with by good 'ole-fashioned carbon-based lifeforms all too well?

    And "enough fossil fuels"...right. This article reeks of propaganda.
  • So, to counteract the effects of burning fuel, they run the air over quicklime, then have to heat the calcium carbonate by burning fuel in order to keep the process going. Can a plant like this even keep up with its own emissions?

    Why do I think that this makes as much sense as a car that uses an electric engine driving the back wheels and a generator on the front wheels that keeps the batteries charged?

  • I believe this came out of a program started by Los Alamos called the Zero Emission Coal Alliance (ZECA), a project to turn coal burning power plants into environmentally friendly plants.

    Basically, they combine coal, water and calcium oxide to produce hydrogen, calcium carbonate and ash. Hydrogen is used directly as the source of power (fuel cells.) The byproduct of the fuel cells is water and heat that it uses to separate the calcium carbonate back into calcium oxide with a byproduct of CO2.

    The CO2 is then combined with powdered soapstone to create magnesium carbonate. Since magnesium carbonate is inert, it can be disposed of easily.

    Apparently this entire process works at something like two times the efficiency of standard coal burning plants and has zero emissions into the air.

    More information is available at http://www.zeca.org/ [zeca.org]
  • by Slashdolt (166321) on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:04AM (#3343228)

    Ok, so more CO2 goes into the atomosphere = more plants. Oh no, more plants! [cnn.com]

    We're not destroying the planet by producing CO2. Heavy metals in drinking water is a problem, as are many other types of polution, but CO2 is simply not any more of a problem than Dihydrogen Monoxide [dhmo.org] (DHMO).

    Get a clue and stop buying into all of this alarmist crap. Work to stop real forms of pollution. Scientists need funding to continue research. To get funding, you have to prove that you are working on something valuable. What could be more valuable than "I'm trying to find out if we're destroying the planet!" Don't think that these people are not in this for the money any less than any corporation out there.

  • "Fossil fuel supplies are plentiful, and what will limit the usage of fossil fuels is the potential climatic and ecosystem changes you may see as a result of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere," said Los Alamos researcher Manvendra Dubey.

    Oh, yeah, fossil fuel reserves are ENDLESS! There will be there for ever and ever! Amen!

    And on top of that, this magic neverending fuel source burns so cleanly that we oly have to worry about the CO2, there aren't any other molecules released after buring fossil fuels, no soot, no nothing!

    By all means, lets not waste our time and energy (pun?) with research in renewable energy sources when we have magic petra oleum lying around begging to be burned!
  • Recent studies have shown that the Amazon river outputs an excessive amount of CO2. If that river outputs as much as it does then other rivers can be assumed to also expend CO2.

    This means that the old "cliche" that combustion engines account for half of all CO2 are total bunk. They need to go back to the chalkboard and figure out just how much mother Earth actually does herself. While man does impact the system we give ourselves far too much credit for just how much an effect we can have.

  • As there are many environmentalist/socialists intent on destroying the global capitalist economy via greenhouse gas reduction standards (and letting Red China off the hook), there will be many against doing something that actually *fixes* the problem. The good environmentalists, who want a healthy planet *and* a vibrant economy, should do everything possible to support ideas like the CO2 extractor. Humankind was "industrious" enough to create the problem, and thus we can fix it too. Perhaps we'll finally be able to have our cake and eat it too... that is, until the fossil fuels run out.
  • by ObligatoryUserName (126027) on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:13AM (#3343311) Journal
    I've seen a couple of highly rated posts here mentioning that everyone should just plant trees and then we wouldn't have this problem. As much as I agree with the sentiment there have been a few studies recently that point to the idea that forests aren't really all that efficient in storing carbon dioxide.

    Study from this April [canoe.ca]
    http://www.canoe.ca/CNEWSScience0204/10_carbon-ap. html

    Study from 1998 [bbc.co.uk]
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_2 36000/236276.stm

    Also, don't forget that planting vast numbers of trees is something that in many places would be a huge ecological change. Just because they provide lots of nice benefits to people doesn't mean that trees wouldn't kill off native species in areas not currently forested.
  • Human climate control has been bantered around for some time now. In fact the Global trade in CO2 emissions encourages the idea. The simple fact remains that the existing CO2/O2 global regulations is poorly understood. (The ages of Gaia)

    Some more feasible suggestions include the fertilising plankton with the bio-available iron to promote blooms that would mop up a significant amount of CO2 and deposit it on the ocean floor. It is then bound in the sedimentation process.

    But despite the ideas there is only one planet and no chance for a f*** up.

    I personally subscribe to James Lovelock's Gaia theory of global climate regulation. The climate has controlled itself quite well for the last 3.4 - 4 billion years (with no climate regulation tax or middle management layer!) the real need is to limit our climate impact.

    Climate regulation is a dangerous idea steaming from fix-it style engineering ethos.

    Enjoy
    A pantheist :0)

  • I heard in a lecture given by Carl Sagan some years ago that the flatulence of cows was the #1 CO2 emission source - fossil fuel was a distance 2nd. Was this/is this true?

  • KISS:
    Most cars have a catalytic converter as part of their exhaust stream, right?

    Add this kind of contraption to cars and even slight reabsorbtion of CO2 would become very significant.

    As well, as a technology slated for mass distribution, the price would drop fast, rather than a humungus plant in the desert, like they mention.

    In summary, there could be a _good_ use for all these things called cars. FWIW I hate the love affair with cars we Americans++ have... Very simplistic calculations show me that with 15-20% less _new cars_ each year, there would be, as predicted in the late 60's by '2001:The Movie', moon bases and all that. Why? E.G.: Ford with about 15-20% of the total car market takes in about $US160B / year ... if you and me spent that $160B/year on 'other things', we could launch 4 missions to Mars!, even at a whopping $40B each -- and still pay lots of people to work their jobz (just for M2M rather than FixOrRepairDaily). And that does not include efficiencies that come from scaling... And, oh yeah, that was _every year_! Well enough OT ranting :)

    So lets hope for new cars that consume CO2 rather than produce it! And if we buy a new car every 4 years rather than every 3, maybe someday in "just 30 years" we'll be able to take a Pan AM space elevator up to orbit to board the Mars Express. Any takers?

    (btw my math is simplistic but if you want more details, just ask; I could use more eyes on the bugs)
  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:52AM (#3343563) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    A typical extraction facility that could extract all current carbon dioxide emissions would require only an area of one square yard per person in the developed world. A facility of sufficient size could be located in arid regions, since discharged air that is deficient in carbon dioxide could have consequences on nearby plant life.

    Okay--one square yard equals 9 square feet. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, so 1 acre worth of quicklime would recapture CO2 for 4,840 people. There are, as of April 1, 2000, 281,421,906 people in the United States. So we'd need 58,145 acres of quicklime to process CO2 for just the United States.

    Quiz: How big is Rhode Island?
    Let's just skip the obligatory comparison to the size of the state of Rhode Island--and concede that we're talking about a lot of land. And, oh yeah--we're also talking about a huge amount of quicklime. Which will, of course, need to be replenished all over those tens of thousands of acres. And building a collection system to capture the calcium carbonate from all those tens of thousands of acres wouldn't be child's play, either. And then it has to be processed, and so forth.

    This is the kind of government proposal that used to give the Keynesian macro-economics professors a head rush. Just think of the economic multipliers--think of all the jobs created finding and surveying and buying some 60,000 acres of land. Think of all the money spent on massive construction equipment necessary to find, dig, and move 60,000 acres worth of quicklime. Think of all the steel involved in building the equipment necessary to collect all that calcium carbonate. Think of all the steel, electricity, and machinery that will be required to do all this processing. Think of the tens of thousands of jobs we're talking about. Whoopie!

    And, oh yeah! Think about the amount of CO2 generated by the electricity used to produce all that steel; and all the CO2 generated by all those cars driven by all those employees, and all those earth-movers scraping depleted quicklime out, and pushing new quicklime back in.

    Still with me? Now consider this: there aren't a lot of vacant 60,000 acre tracts of land available in the Washington, D.C. metro area. So a project of this magnitude would require moving all those tens of thousands of people to wherever this (by definition) arid wasteland would be.

    This isn't simple, and almost certainly not feasible
    Okay, I'm just a simple programmer and part-time college [desales.edu] professor. What could I possibly know? It seems pretty clear to me that this announcement wasn't peer-reviewed, or if it was, the peer-review processing happened at a really good office party. The chemistry might be "simple," but the project would not be.

    • Quiz: How big is Rhode Island?

      776,960 acres if i did my math right... so less than one tenth of a state you could drop on wyoming without anyone noticing. And it doesn't really have to be one huge facility...

      --
      Benjamin Coates
    • by jeff.paulsen (6195) on Monday April 15, 2002 @12:42PM (#3344350)
      60,000 acres is the size of a moderate wheat ranch in Montana. It's a tiny fraction of the size of the US, and it doesn't have to be centralized. We're talking about facilities comparable in size and complexity to sewage treatment plants, on a per-capita basis. If we can build power plants and the infrastructure to support them, we can certainly build these.

      As for the industrial side of getting all that quicklime, that's not a huge endeavor compared to any other kind of mining. We pull so much copper and bauxite and titanium and coal out of the earth that extracting a few million tons of quicklime wouldn't change the scale of the world's mining industry perceptibly.

      Would it work? Maybe, maybe not. BUT, the argument against it on size and complexity does not appear valid.
    • Okay--one square yard equals 9 square feet. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, so 1 acre worth of quicklime would recapture CO2 for 4,840 people.

      They're talking one square yard of SURFACE area, not a square yard of GROUND. (Unless the engineers are dumb enough just to let the quicklime lie around and scrape it up with bulldozers for recycling.)

      You can STACK it - trays in rooms in floors in skyscrapers. You can GRIND IT UP into powder to get LOTS of surface area in a tiny volume, then put a massive volume inside a container.

      Three-D has LOTS more surface than Two-D, as much more as you want.

      It's time to think INSIDE a box.
  • by Mike Hicks (244) <hick0088@tc.umn.edu> on Monday April 15, 2002 @10:57AM (#3343596) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I'm just turning into a conspiracy theorist, but this looks like it's trying to get people to waste more fuel, and possibly support drilling in more places, such as the oft-contested ANWR.

    I don't understand why the US government seems to be so intent on getting people to continue using lots of energy (/me says as he sits in an air-conditioned apartment with numerous computers running constantly..). Okay, I do know -- damn near everyone in the administration came from an oil company. Bush, Cheney, hell, even Condoleeza Rice..

    Anyway.. Conserving just a little here and there can do quite a bit, especially since folks here in the US already use the most energy per capita.

    I agree with the other comments. Plant a tree (or ten, or a hundred..) Get a slightly smaller car, or at least one with a better engine/transmission. Support biodiesel or other renewable energy sources.

    Also, the article doesn't appear to say you can make fuel out of the carbon dioxide -- they just found another way to get a supply for people who already use it (the big one being oil refineries).. So, okay, it allows you to re-use CO2 that gets into the air, rather than just leaving it there. Still, I think trees are probably more efficient at it than this idea (an unscientific quick glance at it, unfortunately).

    Somehow, this article just seems to be misplaced optimism..
  • by Codifex Maximus (639) on Monday April 15, 2002 @11:43AM (#3343888) Homepage
    There is nothing more powerful in chemical conversion than life. Life converts chemicals faster than any acid or agent known to man short of the sun or other nuclear reactions.

    Life, however, is subject to a narrow band of habitable conditions. Raise or lower the ph, temperature, gas content of it's growth medium, or food availability and certain forms of life ceace.

    Left to it's own devices, life will adapt but maybe not as we would wish. We think of ourselves as intelligent - let us prove it by stopping our meddling with natural processes. Creating manmade forms of removing gasses from the atmosphere will only create more expenses and costs - not to mention byproducts. We need to work WITH nature rather than battling it.

    For energy we have the sun. Almost all forms of energy can be traced back to the sun in one form or another. Nature has found a way to convert solar energy into stored energy in the form of sugars. We have found ways of converting solar energy into usable gases which have a net zero effect on pollution - hydrogen/oxygen electrolysis for recombination in a feul cell. Lets develop this technology and avoid the original problem altogether. We could make better or more efficient alcohol or hydrogen burning engines at the very least.

    Our very health is dependant on economic considerations. It seems that there isn't much money to be made from fixing the problem - profits are being made treating the symptoms - bottled water and air filtration systems. I guess those who profit feel that they can buy a livable atmosphere and potable water and poison free food while the rest of us suffer and die. What a bleak future we're likely to have - what a promising future we could all have if we just think. Assist or allow nature to fix itself.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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