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Why Carbon Sequestration Won’t Save Us

Michael G. Richard, Treehugger
Carbon sequestration, also known as geosequestration, seems like a good deal. “Have your carbon cake and eat it too.” In principle, it works this way: You capture CO2 emissions at the source before they are released into the atmosphere, compress them until they become liquid and then inject them in deep underground holes. What could be simpler? It certainly sounds like a good tool to fight global warming while enjoying the Earth’s huge coal reserves.

I used to think that it would indeed be one of the many solutions used to save ourselves from catastrophic climate change, but not anymore. In fact, I now think that it might be a counter-productive red herring. What has made me change my mind? What’s the problem? Read on, please.

Tim Flannery, in his highly recommended book The Weather Makers, dedicates a chapter to engineering solutions to global warming. In it, he gives an overview of carbon sequestration technology, the problems that have to be solved before it can work, and what the coal industry has been doing so far.
(31 July 2006)

Team Looks at Seafloor as Gas Trap

Andrew C. Revkin, NY Times
As the world heads toward a midcentury population of some nine billion people with at least twice today’s energy thirst, one vital way to limit global warming, many scientists say, will be to capture the heat-trapping carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired power plants.

But what can you do with what will amount to tens of billions of tons of the gas?

Pumping carbon dioxide into the earth or deep into the sea have been suggested. But some escape is possible in both cases.

Now a team of researchers propose what they say is a limitless, low-risk repository for carbon dioxide: seafloor sediments at depths and temperatures that would guarantee it would stay denser than the water above, and thus be permanently locked away.

Writing in today’s edition of the weekly Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and analyzing chemical and physical data, the team identified an ideal depth of ocean waters and sediment that creates just the right cold-storage conditions.
(7 Aug 2006)

Salting the Earth
(16-page PDF)
Pat Murphy, Community Solutions
…There are many aspects to modern life and its commitment to consumption but undoubtedly one of the most destructive aspects is the private automobile. Yet the automobile is touted as one of the most attractive benefits of modern life. It is often said the car industry “keeps our economy going.” Charles E. Wilson (while president of General Motors) made the famous and much quoted statement “What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

The car is more than a mode of transportation – it defines our infrastructure, our homes and our communities. The car’s definition of our physical communities has destroyed our social communities. The car supposedly represents freedom and independence. But this freedom is mostly a freedom from responsibility to other people. The private car may be the greatest alienation device between humans that has ever existed.
(June 2006)
A detailed analysis of automotive transportation – starting with the hydrogren promise, to technologies like electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Different ways to supply the electricity to power vehicles are examined, including wind and coal. The viability of coal sequestration is discussed. -BA

Coal May Surpass Oil as Better Bet on Demand for Cheaper Fuel

Christopher Martin and Matthew Craze, Bloomberg
Coal, the hard, black byproduct of fossilized plants used as fuel since China’s Western Han dynasty 2000 years ago, may overtake oil as the best performing energy investment.

That, at least, is the emerging consensus from a diversity of speculators, investors and giant corporations including Wilbur Ross, the billionaire bankruptcy specialist, BHP Billiton Plc, the world’s largest mining company, and Merrill Lynch & Co., the third-largest U.S. securities firm.

Because “coal is the cheapest, most abundant energy source,” from North America to China, “the surge in oil has encouraged people to plan new coal-fueled power plants and to start using conversion technologies such as coal-to-diesel,” said Richard Price, an investment banker at Westminster Securities in St. Louis.
(31 July 2006)