There was a time when technology such as solar panels or wind turbines seemed a long way off. It wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t quite feasible yet. Now, both are instrumental in powering day-to-day life in Texas. We might be at a similar point when it comes to carbon dioxide. It’s the most common greenhouse gas, created from burning fossil fuels.
James Osborne, reporter for the Houston Chronicle, says policy makers and scientists are asking what would happen if – instead of letting it drift into the atmosphere – we could capture and use the gas.
“There’s a lot of concern about trying to figure out a way to not only slow those emissions but maybe even someday get the carbon out of the atmosphere that’s already there,” Osborne says.
Right now carbon capture is a work in progress, Osborne says. It’s the idea of separating carbon dioxide out from other emissions – like sulfur dioxide or nitrogen – using a chemical process.
“It’s still a very expensive process,” he says. “There’s a lot of questions about how they can figure out the cost side in this.”
But the idea isn’t new. Carbon dioxide is in carbonated sodas and the oil industry uses it for Enhanced Oil Recovery efforts.
“This is where the cutting edge science stuff comes in,” Osborne says. “The idea of using carbon dioxide for things that we don’t use it for now.”
We could use the gas to make cement, feed algae, and create fuel. Osborne says labs are already creating ethanol out of carbon dioxide, but aren’t able to do so at a large scale.
But the supply exceeds the demand, Osborne says.
“There’s only so many uses for carbon right now,” he says. “There’s only so much soda you can carbonate. There’s only so much enhanced oil recovery you can do. This sort of potential demand is nowhere near the huge quantities of CO2 we pump.”
It’s not something the world needs to solve tomorrow, Osborne says, but it will have to be part of the big picture going forward.
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.