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Re: SC37

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February 25, 2007 10:17PM
http://energybulletin.net/26453.html

Richard Branson's curious contest

It is a sign of just how desperate things have become that several of those who know the most about global warming should be parties to a contest offering $25 million to someone who can invent a way to remove existing carbon dioxide from the air. Famed British entrepreneur Richard Branson announced the contest earlier this month with Al Gore at his side...........

.........No longer are drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions enough, this contest seems to say. We must also endeavor to undo the damage already done to the climate. To Branson's credit, he says that a practical method for removing CO2 from the air may never be found and that even if it is, we will still need to push ahead with emission reductions.............

.........Now, for the really hard part. It's difficult to imagine how such a technology would not be extremely energy intensive...........

No one has been able to think of a non-energy intensive way to pull gases out of the air. Perhaps some better, more efficient technology will be found. But given the quantities which we seek to extract from the atmosphere--we added more than 24 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2002 alone--that technology would probably have to be many orders of magnitude more efficient than current methods.

The second problem will be powering the newfound technology. More than 85 percent of the world's energy comes from burning fossil fuels. Of course, we could try to run such carbon dioxide extracting plants on wind and solar power. But, shouldn't we really be trying to run everything on non-carbon sources of energy? If we keep powering most of the economy using fossil fuels, then building such extraction plants would probably do little good.

Beyond this, the eventual (if not imminent) peaking of world oil production to be followed by the peaking of world natural gas production means that society will be relying more and more on alternative energy sources. Those sources may not be able to supply anything approaching our projected needs, let alone support an energy-intensive project to remove carbon dioxide from the air...............

..........One possible problem with offering a highly visible prize to encourage such research is that it will provide false hope that technology alone can solve the global warming problem. Certainly, that is not Branson's aim, but it might be the result.

Perhaps those who are giving their good names to Branson's contest believe that we need a miracle technology to save us from the worst of global warming. But the kind of miracle we need most is one that will change the attitude of people worldwide about what each of them needs to do to prevent global warming from destroying the very civilization that has given us so much faith in technology...................
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