Saturday, January 12, 2008

Environmental News

I've written before that to address global climate change the critical thing to do is to close the carbon cycle. I was pleased to come across this article over on Daily Kos which addresses new developments that directly relate to what I'm talking about.

I'm particularly interested in the second part of the post, the discussion of Algae fuel. I had come across some information on the general idea some time ago and wondered if some sort of large scale operation using solar power and salt water might be possible. Apparently it is, and is already up to pilot scale project in Arizona.

Basically the idea is that algae photosynthesize, so they take CO2 out of the atmosphere and using sunlight convert it into more algae. The algae can be selected, or via artificial selection can be developed, to be particularly efficient at capturing CO2 and making fats and oils. Then the algae can readily be turned into biodiesel. This is particularly nice because this can all be done here in the US, thus diminishing our dependence on foreign sources and because diesel is somewhat easier on the environment than gasoline in a number of ways. Capturing the exhaust gas from power plants is one possibility, but the article referenced here is just taking the CO2 from the atmosphere.

Needless to say this can have a powerful effect on global warming issues. In particular, from my point of view, with this technology, closing the carbon cycle is a definite possibility. Finally, the process as described here has no extra environmental stresses. Some input energy is needed, as all power generation processes must, but that input energy can be solar so no additional carbon emissions are needed. Salt water can be used so the plants to generate these fuels need not add to the demands for potable water. In short it has the promise of being a very clean system.

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