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    CO2 removal is good for jobs and profits


    December 2, 2022 - Brattleboro Reformer

     

      COMMENTARY

      BY JIM HURT News Flash: Enlightened Republicans have been sighted deep in the forest, traveling in small herds with Bigfoot and other tree huggers who are guiding them gently back into the light. These tired huddled conservatives are yearning to be free of Trump's shadow. They actually want to save democracy, climate, forests, economy and Ukraine with a free market, free enterprise, for-profit solution to our CO2 (carbon dioxide) crisis. A lucrative climate compromise funded by private money may help us reunite. Hundreds of thousands of construction and farm jobs are at stake.

      The Inflation Reduction Act climate law all but reversed the Supreme Court's backward EPA ruling on power plants just in time for the midterms. Moreover, new advances in chemistry, agriculture and renewables technology now make it profitable to renovate and transform all central plants into negative emission, power and storage stations. Instead of closing coal, oil, gas or wood plants due to age, CO2 and cheap renewables, we can turn them into fully renewable, power and storage stations that pull CO2 from air and make clean watts, hydrogen, synthetic fuels and valuable feedstocks. Much profit can be had by cultivating hemp biofuels, as Canada is doing, and reusing their CO2 emission to make synfuels and strategic materials. Renewables are zero-emission except the CO2 to build them. They do not actively or directly remove CO2 from air. Hemp removes CO2 better than trees via photosynthesis. CO2 removal (CDR) must be profitable or will not help save us in time. The EPA can no longer force utilities to shift to solar and wind. Utilities can still make the shift themselves for profit with EPA guidance and DOE support with CDR included.

      Ideally, CO2 reduction at the point of emission should come hand in hand with active removal of CO2 from the sky simultaneously and profitably. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), COP26 & 27 claim we need to be net-zero globally by the early 2050s, which is far too slow. They also say we need to begin carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from air as fast as possible. McKinsey's Sustainable Materials Hub which reviews IPCC papers put it like this: "The IPCC's latest report outlines the scale of the challenge, saying that limiting warming to 1.5C translates into around 6 GtCO2 of CDR per year by 2050. To put this into perspective, that is more than the weight of all petroleum produced today, a monumental endeavor." Indeed, to attain that CDR goal, the world needs to reach net-zero well before 2050 or by 2035 at the latest.

      Speaking of MAGA, one way to make America great for the first time perhaps is to create green jobs for all kinds of Americans, including new immigrants. We mustn't let these good desperate people get away without exploiting them as future citizens, voters, taxpayers, consumers, workers and community developers. They're good for Gross National Product. Immigrants are still the life's blood of our not-yet great nation. They too deserve a Green New Deal to retrain them as farmers, foresters and firefighters out west and wild east, i.e. for hurricane relief and reconstruction programs. Irrigating deserts will help cool climate significantly and boost food and biofuel crops, i.e. hemp. Hemp is also food for milk and bread. Carbon forests need protection to expand. Besides, except for Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants and their children. America can be great like never before if we unite with native people and immigrants and all kinds of Americans - white folk too - in support of free and fair elections and a healthy climate.

      Be that as it may be, Gov. Scott, Vermont utilities and the Climate Council should unite behind a profitable CDR plan. CO2 can be reused to make hydrogen, synfuels and other products, i.e. plastic, concrete, fertilizer, graphite, graphene and carbon fiber. Paving the way, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology reports (Feb. 25, 2021) that a graphene filter can lower the cost of CO2 capture to $30 per ton. Tokyo Metro University reports that a "New carbon sorbent is 99% efficient, lightning fast and easily recyclable." SkyNano claims their process is 'profitable based on the value of the output product from CO2 - carbon nanotubes. Tax incentives are a trivial bonus." These options are far better for climate and profit than using CO2 for fracking or enhanced oil recovery, which only puts more CO2 back in the air.

      On the transportation front, imagine a hybrid vehicle that runs on hemp ethanol, biogasoline or biodiesel and reuses CO2 emission to make compatible synthetic fuel for that same vehicle. That would make it a negative emission car. Moreover, central power and storage that is clean and green can only accelerate distributed renewables that, in turn, support electric vehicles and heat pumps. The ever-useful switching yard is key to integrating new inputs, i.e. local solar farms and MW scale storage. Mean-while, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is allocating $3.5 billion for Direct Air Capture (DAC), even though DAC is still too expensive. Some DOE money should go to projects that cultivate hemp biofuels, as Canada is doing, to remove CO2 from sky and then capture their CO2 at the point of emission to make H2 and synthetic fuels and feedstocks. Vermont and Vermont utilities should seek DOE support to repurpose Vermont's wood plants and Vermont Yankee both to capture CO2 at the point of emission and remove CO2 from the atmosphere at the same time. That will set a good example to the nation, the world and Joe Biden too.

      Jim Hurt writes from Woodstock, Vermont. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.

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