A great new idea for saving the planet didn’t emerge from America last week. Instead a great idea for making lots of money by using lots of precious resources and lots of energy was presented as a breakthrough in the battle against climate change. The Carbon Dioxide Catcher being hailed as our best hope of saving the planet will be about as effective as a fart catcher but will make big bucks for its manufacturers.
Dispel from your minds at once the images of coneheads in white coats running round with butterfly nets chasing carbon dioxide molecules, this is serious stuff. The so called CO2 Scrubber is a bit like the catalytic converter in your car’s exhaust. Pass air through it and it turns the carbon dioxide into solid particles and catches them. Change the humidity level and the gas is released. Scientists say the carbon dioxide can be released in greenhouses where plants will naturally separate the carbon from the dioxide through photosynthesis. Yeah right.
You can see right away the CO2 Scrubber works just like a rain forest. Except a rain forest grows itself for free and does not have a carbon footprint other than the one you might leave on the carpet of your SUV after treading in some Three Toed Sloth poo.
The other thing people need to know about the device is it is not very efficient at scrubbing CO2 but is very efficient at making money. One of the devices will extract one tonne of carbon per day from the atmosphere, the equivalent of a transatlantic airline passenger one-way.
Extrapolate that to all the air miles in all the skies in all the world, add on exhaust emissions from cars, trucks, those little motorised rickshaw things, factories, ships, trains, power stations and farts and that’s a lorra lorra CO2 Scrubbers, sales and profits not to mention the energy and materials used in manufacture.
The leader of the team that has developed this technology, Klaus Lackner, is being described as "one of the smartest guys on the planet," by fellow scientists.
I have often said the weakness of scientists they don’t think things through properly. And what Klaus and his team have not thought through is the fact that when plant tissue decays it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Rain forests do this of course, but they only release what they have taken out. And they do not burn vast quantities of fossil fuel in the process of capturing the CO2 released from deposits of solid matter torn out of the earth after millions of years only to release it.
Overall the logic of the CO2 Scrubber is the same as that of biofuel which burns several gallons of fossil fuel in order to create a gallon of carbon neutral fuel.
If Lackner is indeed one of the smartest guys on the planet, it just demonstrates exactly how fucked we are.