When we burn fuel, we turn hydrocarbons into to CO2 and H2O. But what if we could reverse that process and, instead, use CO2 (the chief greenhouse gas) and water (which is fairly prevalent) to create fuel?
Of course, themodynamically, there's no way to do this without using a ton of energy. But if there's enough cheap energy around at a centralized location (for example, a shiny new nuclear power plant) then that energy can, in effect, be stored in the form of hydrocarbons before being shipped off to fueling stations.
If there was any kind of certainty within the environmental community that nuclear power represents a viable alternative to fossil fuels, then this would be an obvious solution. Unfortunately, that consensus is far from existing. But since every one of America's potential presidents is in favor of building new nuclear plants, that might not matter.
The real question, in my mind, is if this scheme is actually more economically viable than cellulosic ethanol. If we can turn inexpensive agricultural waste into fuel, then it seems quite likely that that would be far cheaper than building a gigantic nuclear plant to convert CO2 into fuel.
The scientists working at the Los Alamos National Labs have named the project "Green Freedom" which, honestly, makes me kinda hate it. And they say that it would be economically viable once the price of gas hits about $4.50 per gallon. Of course, in order to fully replace gasoline, thousands of these dedicated gasoline-producing nuclear plants would have to be built.
And as the regulatory and funding requirements would prevent the first from being built for at least 20 years, I'm going to have to keep hoping that cellulosic ethanol, or electric cars, end up saving us before this technology comes online.
written by martoni, February 20, 2008
written by wesley bruce, February 20, 2008
written by Andy Revkin, February 20, 2008
written by Earl Killian, February 21, 2008
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