CTO Design Challenge Working Session “Saving the Planet by Capturing Carbon”
LS: Greg’s work with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon actually changed clean air act in CA.
Separating ecological and engineered approaches.
- All biological material in ocean– diatoms alone give off 1/5 of O2 in atmosphere.
- Using iron filings to fertilize phytoplankton has been largely unsuccessful, because copapods eat iron.
- Biochar — taking waste ag and forest products and turning that into biochar, which is very stable and enriches the soil.
- Make super catalyst, put them on signs, all roadways and all they do is suck CO2 out of the air; called artificial trees
- Techniques tend to be very expensive, because the CO2 has diffused through the air and become much lower concentration.
Oceans, which cover 3/4 of the surface of planet earth, capture about 1/2 of yearly CO2, which leads to ocean acidification. Humans are emitting at a scale that is truly astronomical and they’re going to double that.
Classic carbon capture
- Chemical engineering of capturing CO2 from fossil fuels, liquefying it, transporting it in pipes and pushing it underground for enhanced oil recovery.
- There is experience in this, but the amount of CO2 put into the earth every year in the US is thousands of tons, and we are trying to capture billions of tons.
- Using liquefied CO2 to feed algae ponds, which can actually double the output. Algae is essentially carbon neutral when burned as jet fuel.
When it takes energy to calculate offsets, we have to include that in our calculations.
GM: Real opportunity here to educate the community at large about what to think about
- Technically feasible– scalable, infrastructure implications, win-win solutions that improve CO2 and lower costs
- Regulatory implications– does it need subsidy, should we change the ways we think about incentives to make this work
- Economics- how to translate cost of solution to the consumer, using CO2 to create fuels
- Finance– how do you finance the project, often tech solutions are looking at hundreds of millions of $s.
- Lifecycle impact of tech — how much energy does it take to make a solution, how much water does it use, etc.
- Education — ability to communicate it to the rest of the world
- Systems integration — how can you put the pieces together to make larger solutions,
- What’s the driving force of change — why should you actually adopt a model? In many developing countries, there’s not a lot of reason to adopt new technologies unless you can make it personal.
What lens should we be using?
Tom Malloy: Pretty difficult problem to solve this year; perhaps more different than we’ve had in the past. Perhaps we should explore some existing routes first, to understand what’s lacking and how to deal with weaknesses.
LS: I’d like to find out what amount of forest it would take to soak up 5-10 gigatons of carbon a year.
Ty Carlson: Actually, it would be great to develop a table to develop a set of existing relationships between CO2 absorption devices and the amount of CO2 soaked up.
Eric Openshaw: We need to scale up and generate message and enthusiasm to allow us to scale.
To offset their lifetime emissions, a person would need to plant 3 hectares of land with trees.
TC: Would love to have a palette of solutions that would allow a person to make a difference where they live.
- global network of CO2 sensors to create accountability
- prize motivation, X-prize
- Creating carbon tags
- Forced vegetarianism
- China will be where most of clean tech is scaled
- Power is economic, not just political and social: we need international taxation.
- Energy development in China: with the right kind of incentives
- Building triple bottom line models to measure policy changes, etc.
- local levels — blue box recycling program
- Problem needs a user interface, education; create an understandable infrastructure.
- Local sensors — educate people locally
- Using an equally large problem to help solve this problem, like the lack of O2.
- Eg. China desperately needs water. Invest in water technologies we can transfer to china in exchange for policy cooperation.
- Some kind of ranking on the effects of various policy changes
- Learning from other countries and other areas — isolated communities of online climate change