The Car That CO2 Built
Roland is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
There has been a lot of talk about CO2 sequestering technology lately.
The obvious solution to factory-produced CO2 isn't trying to bury it, despite what people say. That may be required as temporary storage, but it is not a good option. Eventually it will leak, just like those salt mines will eventually leak, but we put nuclear waste there anyway. (Nuclear, the clean form of energy...as long as you overlook the fact Exelon (NYSE: EXC) hasn't found a solution for the waste. If you really think “on-site storage” was a mecca, then you should take a trip out to Essex, IL and have a drink of their tritium-enriched tap water.)
The obvious solution to factory-produced CO2 is to put in place a system of splitting C from O2 because both are quite useful to humans. There have been some pretty drawn out and learned discussions on this.
Of course there are quite a few quotes about “no free lunch” and that it would require just as much energy to split the two as was produced by the burning of fossil fuels produced creating the molecule. Then you get about halfway down and somebody mentions that a frequency operation could shatter the molecule the way a high C note from a skilled opera singer can shatter crystal. When the separation happens, the O2 rises and the C falls. Not only does the C fall, but, in its excited state it tends to bond with other C atoms to form carbon dust.
A bit more poking around reveals the following:
If this really works why hasn't it been done? My guess is that nobody has figured out how to bribe a senator to fund it with an earmark. My other guess is that CO2 sequestering provides a never ending source of construction jobs while this process would provide a very limited set of jobs. After all, each site could only hold a limited amount of CO2, then we would have to build another site at taxpayer expense.
Think about it. We already have all kinds of companies claiming they have production-ready technology that will pull the CO2 out of factory/mechanical exhaust so it can be piped to a sequestering site. Why don't we pipe it to a site that is going to microwave (for lack of a better term) it apart into C and O2. The O2 could be bottled and sold to welding or some other industry or simply vented since it is good for us. The C, sucked off the bottom of the tube and fed directly into a plant which is going to turn it into seamless carbon fiber frames and body panels for automobiles. Some might even become airplane skins for those stealth planes our tax dollars keep buying. Heck, some of it might even be turned into pens.
I know the politicians will demand we still do sequestering because they simply won't give up that kind of patronage gravy train, although they will state it as “a buffering mechanism for when CO2 output exceeds processing capacity.” That means we would have to force Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ: GPRE) and CLARCOR Inc. (NYSE: CLC) to build those algae plants near the sequestering sites, which in turn will create more patronage jobs to be handed out to relatives of big donors...or simply relatives.
Wouldn't it be wild though? We would need the wind farms for the extra electricity, but in about 10 years we would nearly double the mileage of all commuter vehicles on the road as they shed 800-2400 lbs of weight using carbon fiber instead of steel or aluminum. With a massive scale up in production, the price of carbon fiber will drop to the point it is even cheaper than tin. Eventually we will figure out how to make engine blocks and heads out of the stuff and we will see cars come off the assembly lines with 500,000 mile warranties boasting seating for seven, on-demand all-wheel drive, and 65 MPG city, 85MPG highway without a single bit of hybrid under the hood.
Maybe Congress will even pass a law making it mandatory for all feedlots to be an indoor negative pressure sealed operation so we can both harvest the methane for combustion and sequester the CO2 to become something we build with. Maybe we'll burn the methane in jet engines to produce electricity like Waste Management (NYSE: WM) does today with methane from decomposing landfills.
So, what are the odds we can find the correct frequency to split CO2 into C and O2 along with the proper “oven” for containment?