Lots More Information
Author's Note: CO2 Problem
I pitched this article several years ago after hearing about the concept of carbon capture and storage. The whole concept is beautiful: We keep burning fossil fuels as much as we like, but we capture the carbon dioxide before it can pollute the air and we store it. In this scenario, the storage is in large bags at the sea bottom, where temperatures are cool enough and the pressure great enough that captured CO2 gas will convert to a globby, semi-solid state that is easier to contain.
I also came across other ideas for where we can store carbon dioxide, like in empty aquifers, and a number of ways to capture it, like before, during or after combustion. But all of them gave me the same sense of excitement, that humans could not only use, but also capture and reuse their waste. The end goal of carbon capture and sequestration, I learned, is to form a closed circle, where spent CO2 is repressurized into useable carbon fuel again and again. Not only does it cut down on pollution, it provides energy security as well. Years later, I came across this example as a central theme of the new Anthropocene age of geology -- humans using ingenuity to both exploit and protect the planet, causing as little damage as possible along the way.
CO2 Problem: Cheat Sheet
- Humans emit about 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
- A movement is afoot to begin carbon capture and sequestration programs to contain and store waste carbon dioxide from power plants and ultimately cars and other transport.
- One major proposal for storing captured CO2 is in large bags at the bottom of the ocean.
- Each of these massive bags could hold about 160 million metric tons of CO2, about two days' worth of global emissions.
- At these depths, CO2 will convert to a semi-solid state, making it easy to maintain in storage than in a gaseous state.
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