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Creating Fuel from CO2 (With a bit of Uranium)

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 viagra online 50mg 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 online pharmacies without prescription fully replace gasoline, thousands of these dedicated gasoline-producing nuclear plants would have to be built.

And as the regulatory and discount levitra online 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.

Via The New York Times

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Comments (9)Add Comment
Only with fast breeder
written by martoni, February 20, 2008
This can be viable only using fast breeder reactor, because uranium resources are not infinite and EPR or PWR use 50 times more uranium for the same amount of electricity.
written by Eco, February 20, 2008
Los Alamos National Lab, not Los Angeles.

It's good technology to pursue, because 20 years down the buy cialis online canada line it will probably be needed.
Try fusion
written by wesley bruce, February 20, 2008
This should also work with fusion. Iter, tokamak (magnetic confinement fusion), may be a dead end but its not the only fusion game in town. Focus Fusion is progressing nicely.
General fusion has already been mentioned on ecogeek. Some of the cold fusion programs are still out there slugging away. I even have a Muon fusion design in search of a lab and an airship!
If any of these work then tapping their energy to make liquid fuels should work. If we can concentrate CO2 from the air cheaply, probable now with the new zeolite break through, then wave power and remote solar could turn water and CO2 into fuels.
More from NYT on Nuclear Fuel Refineries
written by Andy Revkin, February 20, 2008
I first posted on the CO2-to-fuel notion last week on The Times Dot Earth blog and readers have contributed a heap of fascinating thoughts (mostly pretty harsh critiques). Joe Romm at has another useful critique there. No easy choices in addressing the global energy challenge as we head toward 9 billion people seeking a quality life.
written by Space, February 20, 2008
Creating fuel from water, CO2 and energy?
Isn't that what plants do???
I mean "plant" as in ... tree, algae, etc..

Did someone just invent the tree?
Better patent it quick!

Seems to me that this is soft levitra tablets the exact same concept as a biofuel crop with "grow lights".
Not a great idea
written by BBM, February 20, 2008
In most cases, using the electricity generated by the nuclear plant directly for transportation or to canadian pharmacy scam displace fuel oil or natural gas in heating applications would be much more efficient. Perhaps as a way to provide small amounts of liquid fuel for PHEVs or aviation it makes some sense.

This is well said at

If you assume the CO2 source is the atmosphere, vast amounts of air would have to be pumped through an installation at great energetic expense to accumulate enough CO2. This is far less efficient than plain old reforestation. Even growing algae or kelp in the oceans just to dump the packaged, dehydrated biomass into deep ocean trenches might be cheaper.

If you instead assume the CO2 source is flue gas from a combustion process, then the hydrogen would most likely have to be produced on-site using electrolysis. The resulting fuel could be used on-site to create a closed carbon loop, but that would certainly be less efficient than simply running the process on buying viagra in canada the imported electricity directly. If the fuel is used off-site instead, e.g. for vehicles, the carbon is only recycled once. For the same net CO2 emissions, it would be more energy efficient to run the vehicles directly off the electricity. Admittedly, full-function BEVs still pose serious technical and economic challenges. Fortunately, it looks like those might get sorted out in the next decade.

Either way, converting CO2 into hydrocarbons using nuclear or even renewable electricity seems like a dead end to me.

A better way to remove CO2 from the air is to grow biomass, pyrolyze (burn in a reduced oxygen atmosphere)it into syngas and discounted cialis online charcoal, using the syngas to levitra 25mg generate electricity (or make liquid fuels) and then burrying the carbon/charcoal.
the problem
written by def, February 21, 2008
The main problem with bio-fuels is the land needed to grow these bio-fuels in addition to that needed to grow food (read: environmental destruction, more rain-forest cut down). And I doubt that there is enough bio-waste to produce a sufficient amount of fuel to meet all our needs (or habits). So, the nice thing about turning atmospheric carbon to chemical fuel by other means is that we might just avoid that problem. And it stores well.

But uranium mining is very destructive too, and uranium is another finite resource. We also can take the carbon and using mirrors and sunlight produce chemical fuels- at the astonishing rate of I think 2 gallons of petrol equivalents per day per acre. (sorry, wish I could recall the exact figures). Which means: hardly anything.

Which brings me to my favorite topic: geothermal. The main problem with geothermal is that the only best offers viagra 50 mg tablets natural hot water reservoirs needed occur very rarely. But what if we could create such reservoirs? Then we really could have "free" energy. I believe research into doing just this is ongoing...and I think its exciting.

highly inefficient
written by Earl Killian, February 21, 2008
It would take 500 of these plants (with the associated nuclear reactors) to replace current U.S. gasoline consumption (140 billion gallons per year). Using electricity directly for electric vehicles requires only 100 nukes. Would you rather have 100 or 500? As martoni points out, we're talking breeder reactors here, since there is only so much U235. Personally I prefer solar (e.g. Stirling dish farms), so the calculation is 3,000 sq.mi. of solar vs. 15,000 sq.mi. I know what I would pick.

Also solar powered electric vehicles create no smog.
Fusion is better than fission. Hail to uk viagra sales f
written by Green Xenon, July 27, 2008

The heat from H-11B fusion can be used to to create synthetic gasoline from CO2 and water in the atmosphere, closing the carbon cycle.

Fusion is a LOT less polluting than fission -- especially aneutronic fusion.

Hydrogen-boron fusion qualifies as aneutronic. This is far better than Deuterium-tritium fusion which generates too many neutrons. Both types of cheapest cialis online fusion are paradise compared to fission, but HB still kicks DT's butt.


Green Xenon

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