Thursday, January 23, 2020

What We Should and Should Not Do with Captured Carbon

Carbon capture technologies are an essential part of efforts to reduce climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions. The captured carbon can be sequestered underground or it can be used to make products that would be made anyway.  The advantage of using recycled CO2 is that it uses captured carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere and it sequesters them in products without generating additional greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide can be used as a raw material in a wide range of products including everything from concrete to car seats. It is even being used by soft drink manufacturers and it can also be used to make dry ice, fish food and toothpaste. One potentially significant application is in water desalination.

CO2 is currently being used to extract oil from wells and captured carbon can also be turned into fuel. A couple of years ago a company called Climeworks supplied Audi with captured CO2 that allowed the car company to develop what it called  "e-diesel", a liquid fuel made from water and CO2.

However, it must be emphasized that while carbon capture is an absolutely critical part of our fight against climate change, we need to tread cautiously when using it it make products especially fuels that will release more CO2 into the atmosphere.  Making combustible fuel out of CO2 is not sustainable. We will not be able to reduce atmospheric carbon with such an approach and consequently we will not be able to achieve the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement (keeping temperatures within the upper threshold limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial norms).

We cannot afford to allow carbon capture to become an approach exploited by the fossil fuel industry to keep extracting and burning hydrocarbons. Sequestration is the key to making carbon capture work, making more combustible fuel is neither sensible nor sustainable.

Related
Negative Emission Technologies are Our Last Hope
Examples of Carbon Capture Technology
Innovations that Sequester Carbon and Combat the Climate Crisis (Videos)
The Failure of Clean Coal
The Farce of Canada's Carbon Capture
Canada is Banking on Carbon Capture to Offset Tar Sands

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