Carbon Dioxide Removal Can Lower Costs of Climate Protection

Options for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere include afforestation and chemical approaches like direct air capture of CO2 from the atmosphere or reactions of CO2 with minerals to form carbonates. But the use of biomass for energy generation combined with carbon capture and storage is less costly than chemical options, as long as sufficient biomass feedstock is available, the scientists point out.

After Big Bang

Directly removing CO2 from the air has the potential to alter the costs of climate change mitigation. It could allow prolonging greenhouse-gas emissions from sectors like transport that are difficult, thus expensive, to turn away from using fossil fuels. And it may help to constrain the financial burden on future generations, a study now published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) shows. It focuses on the use of biomass for energy generation, combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS). According to the analysis, carbon dioxide removal could be used under certain requirements to alleviate the most costly components of mitigation, but it would not replace the bulk of actual emissions reductions.

“Carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere allows to separate emissions control from the time and location of the actual emissions. This flexibility can be important for climate protection,” says lead-author Elmar Kriegler. “You don’t have…

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Focus on Wood-based Bioenergy

the benefits of wood-based bioenergy all depend on what is harvested, where it is harvested from, how it is harvested, how it is transported, how it is utilized as an energy source, the time horizon considered, and the alternative fate of the feedstock material. An energy portfolio that includes wood-based bioenergy is a better long-term strategy than other viable alternatives.

Much of our nation’s energy (both liquid transportation fuels and electric power) is derived from “fossil fuels,” which include oil, coal, and natural gas.

There are several drawbacks to these energy sources:

  • They are non-renewable resources. Once existing deposits are used up, they are gone. Through new technology we have gotten better at finding and accessing more of these deposits, which has kept supplies plentiful, but ultimately they are finite.
  • Their use converts carbon stored the earth to carbon dioxide which is released into the atmosphere. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changes global climate, with a myriad of consequences.
  • Prices are unstable and usually climbing, impacting all areas of our lives and economy and our nation’s foreign policy.
  • Extraction (e.g. mining, offshore drilling, fracking, etc.) can harm the environment, especially if there is an accident.

The advantages of bioenergy is that it can be renewable, locally…

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Unleashing Energy from Algae

Cosmic Revolutions

It may look like pond scum to you, but one day, the plant-like organism known as algae could rule the world.  How can such an immobile, simple-bodied eukaryote pull this off?

For one, many of these little guys are photosynthetic.  “Big deal,” you say.  “Every plant on earth can claim the same thing, from the grass in the front yard to the tree across the street.”  That’s true.  But it actually is a big deal.  Consider what happens when photosynthesis takes place:

CO2 + Water + Energy (Sunlight) = Fuel + O2

Now consider this expression in the context of the world today.  On the input side, Co2, or carbon dioxide, is a major problem, since an excess of it is the main driver of global climate change.  On the “output” side of the expression is fuel, meaning stored energy.  Of course, our civilization has a voracious…

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Biochar Sequestration

Biochar sequestration is considered carbon negative as it results in a net decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide over centuries or millennia time scales. Instead of allowing the organic matter to decompose and emit CO2, pyrolysis can be used to sequester the carbon and remove circulating CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in virtually permanent soil carbon pools, making it a carbon-negative process. According to Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University, biochar sequestration could make a big difference in the fossil fuel emissions worldwide and act as a major player in the global carbon market with its robust, clean and simple production technology.

The use of pyrolysis also provides an opportunity for the processing of agricultural residues, wood wastes and municipal solid waste into useful clean energy. Although some organic matter is necessary for agricultural soil to maintain its productivity, much of the agricultural waste can be turned directly into biochar, bio-oil, and syngas. Pyrolysis transforms organic material such as agricultural residues and wood chips into three main components: syngas, bio-oil and biochar (which contain about 60 per cent of the carbon contained in the biomass.