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Gallium helps convert CO2 into Carbon and Oxygen (mining.com)
279 points by baptou12 86 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 178 comments

So let's do some math. Let's consider natural gas. According to the US government [1], natural gas produced 1.358x10^12 kWh of power and 5.6x10^8 metric tons of CO2 so 1 metric ton of CO2 equates to ~2400 kWh of produced power.

This post suggests the energy cost is ~230kWh/ton.

This is an important sanity check because it means that (capital costs aside) and if it scales you could technically remain carbon neutral for a net output of energy.

While this is of course only in a lab and they mention "battery" one should remain skeptical (since pretty much every battery "breakthrough" is nothing more than marketing for research funding).

This may be in the paper but in this summary I didn't see anything about how the CO2 needs to be delivered. Does it need to be in a relatively pure form? What sort of preprocessing is required?

As for the capital costs, it's hard to say anything concrete here other than if silver and Gallium are catalysts, they're both relatively cheap at that scale (Gallium seems to be <$250/kg according to some quick Googling). Catalysts tend to have a lifespan so those aren't one-time costs generally but still.

It's also not clear how much of each material is required.

Not to be a broken record on HN, but I've often said--and I'll repeat here--that I don't believe altruism will solve greenhouse gas emissions and global warming: it'll only be solved when it becomes economic to do so.

Another way of putting that is when the cost of carbon capture and/or non-greenhouse gas emitting energy sources is profitable, that's when you'll see change.

[1]: https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=74&t=11

Gallium cannot be produced at scale because it does not form concentrated ores in nature. It cannot be usefully mined directly. The only reason it is relatively inexpensive is that there is limited demand for the minuscule quantities that are currently produced.

Gallium is currently supplied by reprocessing the waste from other convenient metal ores to extract the traces of gallium. Even if we maximized gallium extraction from these waste streams, we are talking about a few thousand tons of gallium per year. We produce more gold every year than there is practically available gallium.

Unfortunately this is the story with many proposed solutions to carbon capture. Many things are possible as a prototype which are completely infeasible at the industrial scales required to make a dent in atmospheric carbon because the resources don't exist to run chemistry at that scale.

> The only reason [Gallium] is relatively inexpensive is that there is limited demand for the minuscule quantities that are currently produced.

It is possible that we might be able to find more if we actively start looking for it? This would not be the first time that what was once a waste product becomes valuable once we know how to use it. Regarding gallium itself, its presence as basically waste product in bauxite ore suggests we can increase production (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S03014...) and there may be other sources if we start searching.

Gallium is found everywhere, it doesn't make sense to actively search for it because it doesn't concentrate anywhere. That's the whole problem. There is little that distinguishes bauxite ore from my backyard in terms of the amount of gallium that can be extracted.

The advantage of extracting it from certain ore waste streams is two-fold even though they don't contain much gallium. First, the chemical processing cost varies with the chemistry of the rocks you extract the gallium from, and certain types of ore waste such as bauxite, zinc, etc are cheaper to deal with. Second, these rocks have already been dug out of the ground as part of a mining operation, which is much cheaper than strip mining an arbitrary place to extract the same trace quantities of gallium -- you get to free-ride on the extraction costs of the primary mineral someone already paid for. If it doesn't matter where you dig, then all you can really optimize for is the processing cost of where someone already dug.

It would make no sense to increase bauxite production for the purpose of gallium production. Extracting gallium from bauxite is only economical to the extent that there is healthy demand for the aluminum produced from that bauxite. This is common in mining operations -- a secondary mineral that cannot be economically mined by itself becomes profitably extractable from the same ore if and only if the primary mineral is sufficiently profitable. Many less common metals are produced solely via secondary extraction because they cannot be profitably mined directly even when they concentrate.

wouldn't it also increase tailings thus we would just change our pollution problem from co2 to toxic mining waste? I mean aren't tailings from bauxite highly toxic?

No, bauxite processing is pretty benign. Strong hydroxides are used to extract the aluminum. Conveniently, a fraction of the gallium in the ore also leaches into the same hydroxide solution, so you can extract it by processing the waste solution after the aluminum has been precipitated. Any ore that uses strong alkali extraction is a candidate for cheap gallium extraction.

Bauxite processing produces iron, silicate, and similar minerals. Nothing anyone would identify as toxic. The alkali hydroxide solutions are recycled because they are one of the most expensive inputs. Nothing to worry about as such things go.

Right, but it's fair to say the real pollution from bauxite comes from the production of aluminum. It's often said that aluminum is solid electricity and if the electricity used to produce it comes from coal then its production is polluting, if from clean energy then it isn't (well, at least it's minimal).

The tailings from the Bayer process for extracting aluminium oxide from bauxite aren't toxic. The remains ("red mud") have an elevated pH from the residual sodium hydroxide used in the extraction of the ore but that's about it. There's a lot of it though and that sheer amount makes it a bit of an environmental problem as Red Mud has limited industrial use and much of it will be dumped / stored somewhere.

Yeah, basically there's only one solution to the CO2 problem that's also the solution with the least political will to push it through: deindustrialization.

Everything else relies on miracles and/or unobtainium.

The level of industrialization that we’ve reached in the present moment is a key contributor to falling birth rates, and what will soon be a stable and shrinking human population, a process already achieved in advanced nations and one we shouldn’t get in the way of in the places where it still has some time to go.

De-industrialization would result in growing population and an even more massive increase in the conversion of wildlands to food production.

Or nuclear. No one is going to deindustrialize. It's just not going to happen, and it's not a practical solution. It's right up there with forced sterilization to limit resource utilization. Either tech and industry saves us, or our species dies.

If you consider fission power to be unacceptable.

I'm not advocating it, but it is the off-the-shelf option that would supply all power without CO2 emissions. No miracles or unobtanium needed.

Not converting everything is a choice, and so is producing nuclear waste.

Surely that’s what they were saying about world hunger and how depopulation is the only solution before the invention of the Haber process?

The implication of that is that we should accept climate change, is that what you're saying? Deindustrialization would probably be worse than climate change so it's likely not an option. In case you want deindustrialization, can you estimate it consequences in terms of deaths caused or some other important metric so we can compare it to climate change?

I think we could do the following; local seasonal food farmed as naturally as possible. It’s likely to still use some carbon, but doing this would massively reduce what’s used today.

Tax meat production heavily.

Tax air travel heavily and these taxes should increase exponentially per journey per person.

Stop shipping goods half way around the world… make the things you need locally.

Improve the grid and invest in plans for heating using electricity.

Build hundreds of small nuclear plants.

I think that’s net zero roughly but it’s not possible politically even though it’s a feasible solution to the problem.

This is the conventional wisdom, but as you mention it's not politically possible. It would be hard for one country to enact all of these changes, let alone all the world's countries.

There is an alternative path and that is radical renewable energy production. Many of the things you mention are not intrinsically harmful, they are only harmful because of the dependency on fossil fuels. For example, shipping things around the world is not intrinsically harmful, it is only harmful because it today requires fossil fuels.

From this perspective the actual problem is a shortage of renewable energy. If we build vastly more renewable energy capacity then we can make fossil fuels economically unviable. Since that is a problem of money rather than politics it is much more viable as a solution.

The alternative to what I’ve said is probably a pretty horrendous dystopia because we still have nowhere to store renewables let alone a process that can make the type of diesel used in container ships…

I strongly doubt that local food production would be less carbon intense. The reason for producing food in far off, but often sunny places is generally about accessing the free solar energy they have as well as higher efficiency because they can supply the whole globe year round, rather than one nation on a weather dependant cycle.

Shipping isn't particularly polluting by it's nature. Currently we allow people to burn some really dirty fuels in ships on the basis that it won't directly affect too many local voters and the fossil fuel industry needs to do something with the stuff they can't burn near people, but it would be relatively easy to regulate and is generally tightening up over time.

Moving to clean ammonia or hydrogen engines is also very doable.

Carbon taxes are often a talking point for politicians that don't actually want to do anything but many of your ideas could be better implemented as carbon fees and/or tariffs so that it will optimize for greenhouse gasses directly, not for what people think is the carbon cost of something.

"Deindustrialization would probably be worse than climate change so it's likely not an option."

That's very true but nevertheless we could improve things very considerably by manufacturing products that are very much more durable. Today, much of production is given over to manufacturing crappy junk that has a very short life and there's almost no political will to stop it (even Greenies are known to buy junk because it's cheap and they've no cohesive or determined plan to improve the situation).

Instead, it's inevitable that we'll fall back to blunt tools such as carbon taxes that disproportionately disadvantage the poor - and we can be certain of this fact irrespective of what politicians might say or promise, as it's a dog-eat-dog world and the poor have always had less political power and clout than the rich. (Sometimes even I have difficulties paying my electricity bills and a carbon tax will stress my already tight budget even futher.)

It's inevitable that we'll arrive at suboptimal solutions such as carbon taxes in that they are lowest common denominator thinking (as it's my experience that the collective decision-making IQ of politicians is well below the 100 mark, thus we cannot expect to see smart solutions arising from them).

Around where I live shops are filled all sorts of crappy lowgrade goods that are specifically designed as throwaway items and the situation is almost identical everywhere else.

If all this junk were replaced with more durable goods (and we stopped buying so much unnecessary stuff that we don't actually need) then I'd reckon we'd do better than having a broad non-selective carbon tax.

When we eventually do end up with a carbon tax then it ought to be applied to selective industries - ones that could would actually benefit by upgrading plant and facilities and it should only apply on the proviso that the replacement equipment is more efficient/less polluting. Adding a carbon tax when no reasonable or economic improvement is possible will only raise prices without any benefit (that's why it'd be best to apply it across processes that would specifically benefit from being upgraded than across complete industries per se).

One may ask how feasible is it to improve the durability of everyday items. Answering that in detail would, no doubt, fill many volumes but I'll finish with a couple of examples involving household objects to demonstrate that it's not only possible but that it's already been done in the past and that somewhere along the way that manufacturers - along with our (consumers') blessing - ditched the idea.

My family is still in posession of an old hot-dipped galvanized bucket that belonged to my grandmother and it dates from early in the 20th Century (likely from around the time she was married) and it's still fully serviceable. Despite being at least 100 years old and having a few dents of no consequence, it still has its handle (which is also galvanized) and it has no rust whatsoever (as proper hot-dipped galvanizing works extremely efficiently at preventing rust).

Now compare this with the three cheap and nasty plastic buckets I bought at the supermarket recently - two of which had the handles fall off before I'd gotten them home. Sure, if it were possible to buy a galvanized bucket today of that quality (and it's not, as I've looked unsuccessfully) then I'd argue that in any comparison with its modern plastic equivalent the old bucket would be an order of magnitude or two ahead in the longevity/cost equation. This is a no-brainer (as one of my plastic buckets is already landfill after having split). (The psychology of why people buy junk goes deeper than just the fact that it's cheap.)

Not long ago I saw a documentary tour of Cuba and the Caribbean presented by the delightful Johanna Lumley and at one point she interviewed an old woman - one of the Cuban aristocracy who'd not left Cuba at the time of the revolution - and who was still living in her rundown mansion that had not seen any maintenance for 60-plus years.

During the tour of the kitchen the woman casualty and a little apologetically pointed to her old fridge then she gracingly remarked to the effect "we bought it in 1946 and thankfully it's still running". For anyone familiar with buying domestic appliances and that's most of us, it's NOT possible to overlook the significance of this statement. Right, this domestic fridge has worked for three quarters of a century and I'd bet it'll still be working at the century mark in 2046 (that is, if someone doesn't ditch it after the woman dies).

In my opinion, the fridge ought to be rescued and put in a museum as a tribute to what manufacturers actually did before planned obsolescence and financial greed possessed them totally!

Unfortunately, I remain pessimistic: the two reasons why this fridge is still in use today is that was actually built to last, which is not the case with most things manufactured nowadays, and because of Cuba's longstanding dire economic conditions; that is, its utility has outweighed fashion - as in Cuba fashion is still too much of a luxury to change it for a later model.

The fact is if we're truly serious about cutting back on manufacturing - or as I ought to say 'optimizing' manufacturing - then we need to readjust our thinking about replacing stuff just for the sake of it. I'm pessimistic because the world's situation isn't perceived to be sufficiently dire by governments, manufacturers and sufficient numbers of ordinary cosumers for that to happen - and it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. As I've shown, for that to happen living standards would have to fall to a level similar to that of Cuba, which, by then it'd likely be too late to rectify things.

Is production of things really a major GHG emission source? It might seem wasteful but things are cheaper now than before so it can make economic sense for them to have shorter lives which gives other benefits. Only having durable products would also be crippling to poor people, more of whom would never be able to afford them at all. Your old fridge owner was an aristocrat afterall!

> (as it's my experience that the collective decision-making IQ of politicians is well below the 100 mark, thus we cannot expect to see smart solutions arising from them).

This is something I tend to think too. Any popular idea must be stupid because it has to be understandable to a majority of people, which includes low IQ ones. I wouldn't blame politicians though - they're just a reflection of what the population wants. It's their job to placate people, no matter how stupid or wrong those people are, otherwise they'll get fired.

If I'd shortened that post even further I wouldn't have gotten across the basics of what I wanted to portray, so much is already missing. In response, I've included additional points here but it barely covers this huge subject. Clearly, these issues are complicated and beyond the scope of any single person to solve alone, all I can do is to paint a brief overview from my perspective. First, I need to explain my position to help fill in the gaps.

I'll begin by using your comment that durable products would be crippling to poor people. Right, this is a crucial issue in any such discussion but I deliberately omitted it, had I done so then I'd have had to have add additional threads to the discussion. Nevertheless, this matter is ingrained in my psyche as I grew up in a comparatively poor family—so when my parents purchased their fridge and washing machine it was a big deal financially. Moreover, when purchased in the 1950s they were much more expensive relative to the average family income than they are today. I recall as a kid my grandmother only having an icebox and she received regular deliveries of ice from the iceman because she couldn't afford a fridge. The same went for laundry, once a week she'd boil the copper over a wood fire to do the washing. Right, durability must be tempered against cost and affordability (more on that monetarily).

The other crucial issue with having more durable, longer-lasting products is that fewer people would be employed, and unless they're found new work then large sections of the population would definitely suffer economic hardship.

Having been taught trades (wood/metalwork) early on I've an understanding of what it's like to work in production-line industries and to get my hands dirty—as they helped finance my way at uni. In fact, I rather enjoy working at a milling machine with swarf flying about as I can actually see I'm achieving something useful unlike much of the deskwork and many useless, time-consuming meetings I've had to attend over the years. As mentioned in past HN posts, I've great respect for craftspeople and skilled workers who work with their hands and I firmly believe that any disruption to production that would disadvantage them without provision of alternative work is completely unacceptable in this modern age.

However, disruption has already happened. If one had to choose a starting point then it began some three, going four, decades ago. If you're familiar with modern numerically controlled (NC) machining workstations then you'll already be familiar with their three outstanding features: consistency and repeatability, speed and accuracy/precision. The introduction of this new automated technology has enabled phenomenal, once undreamt of increases in productivity in recent decades and it shows. We've seen this enormous productivity increase reflected in huge price reductions of many common everyday items. Some will argue the reductions are due to free trade and exploitation of cheap labor in Asian countries, and no doubt in many respects this is very true to various degrees (and it's still a significant problem), but the fact remains that automated machinery is hundreds of times faster than the fastest human worker and day-by-day this automation is getting better (thus it's encroaching still further into areas still performed by humans).

It's why anyone can now buy, say, a flashlight for less than $10 that's been precision machined out of solid or tubular stock, has a properly knurled holding grip that feels comfortable and its batteries are held captive with a cap that screws onto what is essentially a precision thread—a thread that in past generations would have required the skills of an experienced machinist to cut—not to mention that cutting threads by hand is time-consuming work. It's almost jaw-dropping to watch such machines in operation.

In many ways, today's production worker is much better off than in the past. New manufacturing technologies mean that he or she works in a cleaner, safer environment (or ought to), and has learned new skills such as programming the numerical controls that drive said automation. Thus drudgery has given way to less boring skilled work, and where it hasn't then it soon will (at least it'll be so in mass production manufacturing). That said, many serious instances of worker exploitation still exist and they must be eliminated.

Today's operators of NC machines can go whole shifts without so much as a spot of cutting oil getting on their coveralls. Some years ago, I was involved in contract work for reasons too involved to explain which found me working in a Japanese car manufacturing plant and it was so clean that one could almost eat off the floor. The automation and speed of the JIT production, aided by robotic machines, was phenomenal: from rolls of steel sheet in at one end to cars of mixed variety and color (i.e.: made to order) rolling off the production line at the plant's other end then driven directly to awaiting ships only meters away in all of 59 minutes (the deadline being 60). Moreover, all workers were remarkably well trained and exceptionally skilled, and they took pride in their work in ways that I'd never seen in Western countries (incidentally the plant had the best factory canteen I've ever eaten in). Much of production worldwide is now like this and it's becoming more the norm by the day.

In essence, all that sums up to the fact that it's both easy and inexpensive to make very durable goods these days and that the differential cost between making a product durable or second-rate and trashy is minimal. We now have a situation where precision and repeatability are built into the production process by default, these factors are key if we're to make products reliable and more durable. Whether manufacturers choose to use these new processes and techniques for the betterment of their products is a separate issue altogether (and so often it's not the case).

The fact that many, many manufacturers not only deliberately choose to build what essentially amounts to substandard products but also that they go much further—in fact go to quite inordinate lengths—to build in planned obsolescence into their products to deliberately shorten their life is of key importance in this discussion; it's the crux of my argument.

This was brought home to me some years ago when I was working in Europe. I rented a small apartment for nine or so months I was there and it came with a small fridge (large bar size) which had failed to restart and the landlady immediately replaced it with a brand new one of Italian manufacture. As happenstance would have it, almost ten years to the day I was back in the same apartment doing the same work I'd been doing a decade earlier—and you guessed right, that 'new' fridge failed the moment I moved in! To this day, I'm sure the landlady still thinks I jinxed her fridge even though she was well aware that I was employed in high-end engineering work.

That incident led me to investigate how sophisticated planned-obsolescence engineering had become, and I can assure you it's extremely sophisticated. Obviously, products must outlast their warranty period as well as some additional predefined short amount of time that manufacturers have conditioned us customers into accepting before they have to be replaced (by advertising, being seemingly out of date and needing updating, etc.), then they engineer these lifetimes to within quite remarkable accuracy. Even if you're familiar with the Phoebus cartel and great lightbulb conspiracy of 1924 then this article is worth a read: https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-great-lightbulb-conspiracy. Now, almost 100 years on, manufacturers are even more adept at such conniving skulduggery.

It's worth comparing that fridge with the ten-year life to that of the one my parents bought in the '50s. It was in use for well over 40 years before it was replaced, in fact it never failed nor at any time was the sealed unit re-gassed, rather in the end it too had fallen victim to fashion. The washing machine failed a bit earlier at about 36-37 years and was replaced. In comparison, my own modern washing machine lasted only 11 years (and that's with coaxing as I'd replaced valves and seals in it at about year nine). Whilst I've only given you a small sample here, there's reasonable evidence to indicate the lifespan of whitegoods has dropped to a third of what it was immediately post-war, and that's a conservative estimate. Moreover, it's much more difficult to repair modern machines and appliances for various reasons that are also too detailed to discuss here. Instead, I'd refer you to the John Deere tractor controversy and the Right to Repair movement for details.

Furthermore, the figures are much more alarming for electronic equipment as the mountains of e-waste are almost out of hand, disposing of it is now a serious problem worldwide. I'm well aware of the argument that due to rapidity of the development of computing and IT technology that holding back on purchasing updated equipment is silly idea. Again, this is a complex problem and simple one-line quips will not suffice. Similarly, I cannot discuss the matter thoroughly here as it would fill a book.

I've mentioned a few examples that demonstrate the exploitative behavior of IT/computing manufactures but I've run out of space to post them (I'll provide them later if you're interested).

>I'll repeat here--that I don't believe altruism will solve greenhouse gas emissions and global warming: it'll only be solved when it becomes economic to do so.

Completely agree. We need governments to ensure externalities (both positive and negative) are reflected in market pricing so that economic forces can operate efficiently.

Implication: there must be a debt to pay for past and present GHG output. It should not be punitive. But it should be clear and predictable.

So, a robust carbon tax.

That is economic today for people who rent out the credits that arise by purchasing land then not harvesting the trees. That is economic today for people who claim carbon credits for purchasing new equipment, where the old was at EOL anyway. And so on. The existence of brokers for carbon credit sales should tell you something. For real economic viability that isn't scam-based, something based in reality is needed.

You're talking about carbon credits, not a carbon tax.

I've noticed a trend of people trying to suggest we already have a carbon tax via carbon credits.

I'm not sure if they're just confused, or trying to sow misinformation.

You're inventing things out of whole cloth. I simply misread.

I read that wrong. Thanks!

That is the way.

It is however politically impossible in most places.

A carbon tax is essentially going to hit the average person hard. Moreover, the average person has a lot of driving they have to do, tax or not. And plenty of rich people could ignore the tax and keep driving.

And the political impact would be angry people ready to listen climate deniers.

What's needed is a plan to eventually give everyone an electric car or some choice, any choice, that lets them do their daily business with much lower carbon consumption. Maybe taxes can change the behavior of industrial users but for consumers, this is totally daft solution.

> A carbon tax is essentially going to hit the average person hard.

I think that is just an excuse to not make changes that are necessary. Saying that something will hit the poor/average person/working family is an argument about wealth/cost distribution, which is separate from the actual problem.

When we, as humanity, have the natural resources, the technology and the labor required to do something that is objectively necessary, the only thing that can stand in the way is cost/wealth distribution: who gets to pay the bill.

So when objectively necessary changes do not happen, the only possible reason for that is that maintaining wealth/power are more important than suffering the consequences of not implementing the change.

Furthermore, it’s not one dimensional. Society would respond to a carbon tax. Maybe if your manager or director really really needs a team/department on site, the company would foot the bill to have you as a carbon consuming commuter. We would all adjust behavior in response to the tax. Things that obviously are bad for the environment are now obviously bad for your wallet and need to be justified. At least there aren't that many wealthy people so if they want to pay the tax and fly around in jets, so be it.

I think that is just an excuse to not make changes that are necessary.

It's not excuse, it's a reason. It's not even the poor that will push back here on gas taxes but the somewhat well-off but not wealthy. These are the kind of people I don't have cultural sympathy with but if you just say tell them "oh, you're going to be paying a whole bunch for that pickup", you may find you don't get to say that after next election.

When we, as humanity, have the natural resources, the technology and the labor required to do something that is objectively necessary, the only thing that can stand in the way is cost/wealth distribution: who gets to pay the bill.

The US has a massively unequal distribution of wealth currently. A plan to get the poor to for this problem will fail 'cause they don't actually have money.

so you're saying it will incentivize better choices like not choosing a pickup as a daily driver

> A carbon tax is essentially going to hit the average person hard.

Well, that's the very point. (And it was even why the carbon tax was mentioned in response to the GP comment.) Unless you make CO2 emissions (CO2 emitting behaviour) expensive for the members of the society (you can say, the average person) they (we) won't stop doing these.

Yes, a lot of people feel they have to drive a lot. But they probably don't. They can just afford it and thus they've organized their lives around being able to drive a lot.

Now if all these behaviours and activities would become very expensive then the market would come up with cheaper substitutes. Yes, people would have to change too but it wouldn't mean that everyone would just stop what they are doing and thus their lives would somehow grind to a halt. (E.g. can't drive to work any more doesn't have to mean can't work any more.) Carbon tax will also make carbon based energy production expensive which means that the alternatives will immediately seem cheaper and there will be a lot of incentive in deployment and development. Nuclear plants (fission plants, fusion ones don't seem anywhere near) will become attractive again and probably cheaper and more robust as well.

Nobody's claiming it's not hard. The claim is that it is the better solution. The other one is running into a very nasty future where food is expensive, water is tight and hundreds of millions of people will want to come to live to your country (unless you are one of thse who will have to migrate).

> Moreover, the average person has a lot of driving they have to do

Bullshit. Consider that the average person doesn’t own a car.

Even in developed countries people drive more than they have to.

The average person is also getting hit hard by high energy prices for fossil fuels regardless of tax rate.

Yes, average person gets hit by rising energy prices. Some portion of average people (especially small business owners) support demagogue who artificially lowers these at heavy costs. Rinse and repeat.

> there must be a debt to pay for past ... GHG output

A debt which should be paid by past users, not current users who merely share the same country.

If step 1 in your climate plan is "resurrect the dead since the industrial revolution started", I doubt it will be very successful. Or am I misunderstanding you?

Current companies paying for past output.

Who would pay that debt for past emissions, and what price should they pay?

Perhaps society as a whole should just try to solve these problems.

This is the tarpit of market-based solutions: debating endlessly about who bears costs, instead of just doing collective things collectively. And if you do have markets, every middleman and their dog will demand their slice of the pie.

The only way to get everyone to participate in a solution will be regulation. The last thing that I want is the government regulating this market. We will end up with another cartel like the oil industry.

So what do you suggest then? We do nothing and slowly walk towards our demise?

Probably this, yet. When the problem is real, people will find real solutions. Or not, but it's not happening now anyway. Are you driving less? Have you stopped eating beef?

When the problem is "real", it will be too late for solutions. We need to do something right now. Besides, I'd argue the problem is starting to be "real" right now. California, Australia, Siberia and Greece were on fire this year, Germany had historic floods and the East Coast keeps getting devastated by hurricanes.

I also disagree with the tactic of shifting responsibility to the individual to avoid doing anything where it actually matters. My individual contributions to climate change are negligible, this is a collective issue. We need to get industry and corporations in check and the only way we can do that is with heavy regulation.

You're not wrong, but I'm being realistic about human nature. People are not going support heavy regulations that make their lives more difficult and expensive, if they are working 5 or 6 days a week to pay bills and support a family. Some theoretical problem 20 years from now is not high on their list of concerns.

Might this be an indicator that democracy is no longer fit for our times and we need an authoritarian technocracy to save ourselves? Maybe the Chinese are onto something there? Their system obviously has flaws, but they do get to make unpopular changes for the common good while Congress does nothing of the sort...

Are wildfires a result of climate change? I though they just happened naturally and since we stopped doing controlled burns have gotten worse. I’m not disagreeing with your general point, there are plenty of signs we should be acting now. I’m just always surprised when wildfires get linked to climate change.

I think the point is the regions that already had them get them worse, and some regions that didn’t have them now get them.

What global warming does is destabilise the equilibrium we had in the global climate system, and one of the outcomes of that is more extreme weather. That means for example longer and drier droughts which obviously contributes to wildfire risk.

We are on fire every year. Gross mismanagement has made it worse.

I will not be part of your collective.

Nothing, forward is the only direction to move if we want to have any hope of survival. If we mire ourselves in economic finger pointing we will end up doing nothing about the actual problem

I'm not sure, but there is little more terrifying short of a nuclear accident than the idea of faceless people in an office somewhere deciding who gets a pass and who gets crushed for sins uncommitted by them.

In short: you hint at tryanny.

Let's tax at 50% every private property of a few million. That would do it.

Boomers. Everything they own.

It’s remarkable how effectively the fossil fuel industry has gotten progressive environmentalists to believe that we can solve this problem without carbon tax.

The moment you mention how a carbon tax works (that it’s a market mechanism) progressives recoil. When evangelizing to progressives, I try to focus on “making polluters pay for the damage they are doing” (as opposed to making taxpayers bail us out) since they are more likely to be persuaded by appeals to fairness rather than efficacy.

Similarly, conservatives recoil at “tax” nomenclature, so when evangelizing to the , I refer to it as “carbon pricing” and emphasize the economic efficiency argument.

In either case, we have a long way to go, politically.

The "polluters" are you and I. We buy the cars, we buy the other things, we use electricity and gas and oil in our homes and cars.

We, the consumers, will ultimately pay any carbon taxes. Which may be appropriate, but let's not be unrealistic about who will be paying.

That’s precisely the point. When the cost of pollution is reflected in the price you and I pay, then cleaner options become economically viable and we the consumers pick them. Over time the market does it’s thing and optimizes for cost (becomes more efficient) and cleaner options become cheaper i.e., the carbon tax you and I pay is significantly diminished. Moreover, we can distribute the carbon tax revenue to the lower and middle class folks.

Not all of it. Some of the tax will have to be eaten by the producers since the market will not tolerate just any price. Then also the tax will make less polluting alternatives more viable and thus likely reducing their price in the long run.

And of course, we the public consumers will also benefit the most from making our industries greener and cleaner.

Prices aren't determined by costs.

> We buy the cars

Speak for yourself. I haven't owned a car in my life and don't plan to change that.

I'd be willing to bet many of your daily activities (eating, using the internet, etc.) involve burning hydrocarbons. It's pervasive.

Ok, but you certainly pollute in other ways.

Sure, just not that way anyway.

Try again.

"how the CO2 needs to be delivered":

The experiments described in the paper have used pure CO2. The conversion process is unlikely to work directly with air, because it decomposes CO2 into solid carbon partially oxidated and dioxygen.

If one of the products of the catalyzed reaction, i.e. oxygen from the air, would be present in a much larger concentration than the input substance (CO2), like in the air, the conversion reaction will either stop completely or it will be at least slowed down a lot.

So besides the costs for the energy and for renewing the silver and gallium from time to time and also for the organic solvents that might also need to be replaced from time to time, the cost of separating CO2 from the air must be added.

Nevertheless, it might still eventually be cheaper than alternative methods, as most of them also need to first separate the CO2 from the air.

In any case, much more research is needed to scale this from experiments in minute quantities to industrial dimensions.

It's possible this might work with de-oxygenated air. As long as the nitrogen does not react with the generated oxygen and release NOx, this could be done with an adsorption process, which is a lot cheaper and less energy than full air separation.

Even then, NOx can be mitigated. This process is fascinating in that unlike most "breakthroughs" this has a semblance of a chance of scaling.

Preconcentration of CO2 from air makes a lot of sense as you can then do various types of industrial chemistry on a pure CO2 stream at greater efficiency. From here you can go towards either methane and long-chain fuel hydrocarbons (Sabatier, modified Fischer-Tropsch, etc) or, as in this paper, towards solid carbon forms.

Making something like graphite from pure CO2 has certain advantages as well (easier to get purity) and graphite electrodes are used in scrap steel recycling and other industries.

For comparison, see the ISS use of Sabatier reaction and some issues they had with catalyst poisoning:


This indicates that power plant emissions, typically contaminated with sulfur / arsenic / mercury / nitrogen etc. , at about 10% CO2 as I recall, would be a very poor option relative to direct air capture.

As far as scaling, even existing systems (see ISS) could be scaled fairly rapidly and would be able to produce enough fuel for specialized uses, i.e. plausibly supplying SpaceX / ULA/ etc. rocket launches as a first step, then moving to supply airports with jet fuel for long-distance travel at a much larger scale.

A big issue with renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, is that the power output is variable and an electric grid needs a base load to operate.

Now I firmly believe the future here is ultimately space-based solar power collectors. I've seen estimates that a panel in space around Earth can generate ~7 times the power it can on Earth. This is a deep topic but generating power in space for use on Earth isn't as crazy as it may sound.

Anyway, another potential application is to use variable power output for useful purposes on-site. For example, you can extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere and with simply chemistry you can make gasoline from that. This is currently cost-prohibitive so no one does it.

At some point this may become economic, in which case the variable power output won't be an issue. You're now only interested in the total output. You also don't lose power from transmission or require the capital cost of transmission lines.

Perhaps CO2 capture is another potential such application. Either the CO2 could be processed on site with a process like this and the byproducts (pure carbon and oxygen) can be sold.

"I've seen estimates that a panel in space around Earth can generate ~7 times the power it can on Earth"

Contrast it with the fact that that panel is 1,000x more expensive, and thats a net loss. We are constrained by capital cost, not lack of sunlight or anything else.

Also consider transmission losses, orbital solar collectors must convert that power into microwaves, which are made of photons, then they must be converted back into electrons on earth. That inefficiency is compounded by atmospheric water absorbing microwaves. (you are heating clouds) You have destroyed that 7x advantage.

If you can place a panel in orbit and deliver power to Earth, then you can put a million panels in Sahara Desert and relay that power anywhere on Earth. Solar panels are made of sand, we are not short on sand. If we covered 1% of uninhabitable deserts in panels, thay would produce more power than we could use, and it would be reliable.

> space-based solar power

Cute, but very much off topic. Lets have that discussion on an article about energy generation, not about carbon capture.

> I've seen estimates that a panel in space around Earth can generate ~7 times the power it can on Earth

How do you get that power back down to Earth where it can be used?

Presumably, laser beams to heat terrestrial mountains of salt. What could possibly go wrong?


Seriously, I'm curious about this too.

Edit: a quick search shows I was close: https://earthsky.org/earth/space-based-solar-energy-power-ge...

If you want to place solar panels in a hostile and distant environment to triple their efficiency, we have the Sahara Desert for that.

That article does not mention inefficiency of space that microwave transmission, it is going to wreck that 7x advantage.

Also lifting a solar panel from Earth will cost more energy than it will ever generate You have to have cities and factories in space before any solar collector could even be considered.

> This is an important sanity check

You have a bug somewhere, I'm not sure where.

Roughly speaking the heat of combustion is proportional to the number of atoms of oxygen in the molecules coming out of the reaction.

So CH4 + 2 O2 = CO2 + 2 H20

If you hypothetically split CH4 first, you get

CH4 + 2 O2 = (C + 2 H2) + 2 O2 = (C + O2) + (2 H2 + O2) = CO2 + 2H20

The first reaction is endothermic, but it absorbs much less heat than the heat produced by the second part of the reaction.

So, you can roughly say that the energy coming from burning CH4 comes half from burning the Carbon and half from burning the Hydrogen.

Now, if you can make the reverse reaction CO2 -> C + O2 with 100% efficiency, then sure, you get to economically burn CH4 with zero emissions. But if that reaction has only 50% efficiency, then all your (energetic) profit has been wiped out.

The article doesn't say what efficiency this envisioned reaction has, but I'd be mightily surprised if it were 50%.

Much better to not burn the Carbon to begin with. That is what methane pyrolysis [1] tries to do.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrolysis#Methane_pyrolysis_fo...

These carbon capture and conversion technologies are far more promising as a means of feeding atmospheric carbon dioxide into industrial 'aerochemicals' (to replace petrochemicals) and materials, than as a means of mitigating fossil fuel combustion CO2 emissions.

Obtaining a pure stream of CO2 concentrated from 400 ppm atmospheric sources is the optional approach for industrial chemistry processes (and requires significant upfront energy investment), but from here one can go almost anywhere, to methane or jet fuel or graphite electrodes or carbon fiber building materials or synthetic dyes.

However, it's unlikely these technologies will have much effect on reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. They simply eliminate the need for natural gas / petroleum / coal as raw materials for synthesis of necessary products.

The article clearly states a claimed 92% efficiency.

Good point. But there are two problems with that claim.

One is about an order a magnitude, the other about a sign.

The first one: if you burn 1kg of pure Carbon, you get 3.67 kg of CO2 and 32.8 MegaJoules [1], which is the same as 32800 kJ or, 32800/3600 kWh. That's 9.11 kWh for each 3.67 kg of CO2, or 2.4848 kWh/kg. That's quite close to 2500 kWh/ton.

They are claiming it takes them 230 kWh/ton to reverse this reaction. You can see this is an order of magnitude wrong. Let's say they meant to say 2300 kWh/ton. If you divide that by 2500 kWh/ton you get exactly 92% that they claim.

But here's the second mistake: you need to put more, not less energy to split CO2, otherwise you'd get energy for free. 2300 kWh/ton is simply impossible. You need to use more than that, and actually more than 2500 kWh/ton if you don't want to violate the first principle of thermodynamics.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_of_combustion#Heat_of_com...

> They are claiming it takes them 230 kWh/ton to reverse this reaction.

I don’t think that’s a claim in the article. If the carbon product was pure in the sense it could be burned again then it wouldn’t work out. But that’s not claimed. It’s not reduced to carbon!

To quote the article:

"The reactions break the carbon dioxide into oxygen gas, as well as carbonaceous sheets which ‘float’ to the surface of the container due to differences in density and can therefore be easily extracted."


"According to the research team, the process showed 92% efficiency in converting a tonne of CO2, using just 230kWh of energy."

Exactly. Carbonaceous.

Which is Carbon, because that's what left when you take away the O2 from CO2.

No it’s still oxidized carbon (graphene oxide) just less oxidized than CO2.

Otherwise, if it was unoxidized you could just burn that carbon again and regain 10x the energy you spent!

Maybe the researchers meant 230 Kwh above the reaction energy of pure carbon and oxygen. That makes the math check out, since 2,485/(2485+230)=91.5%, which could be rounded up to 92%. It would also square up with the estimated costs of $100/ton, since industrial electricity prices can go as low as 0.03 to 0.04 USD.

I wish I could read the source to verify, but unfortunately it's behind an academic publisher paywall.

To those who think it sounds impossible, remember that methane is CH4 and a good amount of the energy released is attributable to those hydrogens getting together with oxygen. So you are basically subtracting the yield from carbon.

Wouldn’t it be a lot better though to somehow turn CH4 into hydrogen and carbon, bury the carbon or use it for uses that don’t end up in the atmosphere, and burn the hydrogen alone or use it in fuel cells? Fuel cells might get you to pretty good energy yields.

The news reporting on this article has been a little misleading. First, the main goal of this is not to reduce CO2 into carbon, but simply to sequester CO2. The "carbonaceous sheets" that are produced are "graphene oxide", which is less oxidized than CO2 but still highly oxygenated. So the energy required is much less than what would be needed to reduce CO2 completely. But yeah, you won't be able to burn the end product.

Ok makes a hell of a lot more sense now. Thanks for pointing that out.

The cost of 230kWh is around €30 in Norway (lower during the summer), the CO2 quota price is around €60/ton.

Norway is now building pipes to pump CO2 down to the old oil wells.

Seems like it starting to get economically profitable to grab CO2 from the air and sell the quota?

> Norway is now building pipes to pump CO2 down to the old oil wells.

You should know that injecting old oil wells with CO2 helps them produce more oil. The CO2 becomes carbonic acid under pressure, which then dissolves pores in the rock wider, allowing more oil and gas to escape.

Also, it looks pretty doubtful that CO2 will stay in gas wells for a long time. Eventually it'll find some fissure and due to the acidity any crack will be eroded wider till all the CO2 comes out like a fizzy drink.

But don't worry. Oil and gas companies will happily collect government subsidies for pumping CO2 underground to get more oil out to sell, in the knowledge that when the gas escapes in a few decades they can act all surprised...

Yeah, it’s been branded “enhanced oil recovery”, and iirc it’s currently the most economically rewarding use for CO2.

That's interesting, I'd always thought it was more the CO2 acting as a solvent to flush out the oil. Is there any reading material on this?

Note that €30 is obtained with pure CO2 as input. What's the cost of going from air to that? Or even from exhaust to that?

Most developed nations produce circa 10 tons of CO2 per person. Assume €100 to cover capital costs and inefficiency.

At ~€1000 per person we could easilly afford to go CO2 neutral. It's just a question of will

This also assumes pure CO2 input. That's perhaps possible if you are collecting CO2 fresh off an engine or similar process.

However if you are talking about CO2 already in the air, you have a MASSIVE amount of energy required to separate/concentrate the CO2 FIRST.

There's major catalyst poisoning issues with trying to capture coal/oil/gas combustion streams, which can be contaminated with everything from nitrogen oxides and polcyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, to sulfur and arsenic and mercury.

Even though you have to expend energy to preconcentrate CO2, the benefit of having a clean stream (assuming not downwind of Los Angeles) of CO2 is that further industrial chemistry is much easier, catalysts last much longer, etc.

don't believe altruism will solve greenhouse gas emissions and global warming: it'll only be solved when it becomes economic to do so.

You've listed altruism and economics, but may have discounted self-interest-- not financial, but survival. Young adults especially are both at an age where they can expect to feel some especially nasty impacts of climate change, and at a point in their career where they can begin making decisions accordingly.

The generations above that have family, children, etc, and that too is at least a mix of self interest and , I supposed, a form of altruism directed towards your family.

It's not easy for us to think in such timelines and abstract outcomes, but we're making progress in that direction.

I'm not saying self-interest in terms of self preservation will be the key factor here either, just that it not just about a sort of mechanical economic optimization point. At some tipping point, economic w/ technological advances will converge with self preservation. I guess the question is whether or not that will happen soon enough to really matter. Economics may be the dominant factor now, but the worse things get, the less that economics will matter in making decisions, the more that self preservation will become dominant.

I think environmental issues are the classic tragedy of the commons. The first to put aside environmental issues in favor of riches will have a disproportionate advantage with a proportionate impact. One country burning gas gets cheap fuel to expand their industries but only has a marginal increase in future global warming and (the worst part) almost no impact on today's temperature.

We need more than altruism, which is local sacrifice. We need global enforcement and agreement and, I agree with GP, incentive.

Global climate change is not something one person or family can affect, so I don't understand what form of self-interest driven action could impact it.

BTW, the "economic" solution consists of making it in everyone's self interest to work against CO₂ emissions.

Not to be a broken record on HN, but I've often said--and I'll repeat here--that I don't believe altruism will solve greenhouse gas emissions and global warming: it'll only be solved when it becomes economic to do so.

The term "economic" can mean a lot of things. Solar and Wind can be cost-effect replacements for many uses of fossil fuel. With some regulations and transformation of daily surplus energy to other forms, you could get an economy with energy costs similar to the present and low carbon usage. So if "economic" just means, idk, works in an economy, then it's essentially not an important barrier (except the state should finance it's efforts with a graduated income tax and not a visibly-punishing measures like carbon or at-the-pump taxes, instead just making some things eventually prohibited but cushioning the blow for those poor or industries want to preserve).

But if by "economic", you mean the economy has to just do what it "wants" with no intervention at all, well we'll not only suffer the disasters of global warming but also unbridled pollution.

> it'll only be solved when it becomes economic to do so.

That's true, but the economics are being badly skewed by not properly accounting for the externalities of emissions. If this were done (e.g. a global carbon tax) the situation would change dramatically.

If you are a young person reading this I would seriously consider making this a litmus test for any politician you are considering voting for, and urging your peers to do the same. Otherwise your generation is in for a (literally!) a world of hurt.

So reducing petrol demand (let's say by switching to electric cars) might reduce the economic incentives of carbon capture significantly, interesting thought.

The economics of a natural carbon market will never work out. There is simply too much carbon available for too low of a price.

The carbon capture market NEEDS to have public funding/intervention to make it profitable.

Now, carbon capture will be important if we want to have a chance of undoing atmospheric CO2, but IMO, while now it the time to invest in research it's not the time to deploy. More public/government funds need to be pushed towards limiting CO2 output and eliminating sources of CO2.

The notion of carbon capture is much the same as having urine capture in a swimming pool. There is no way it won't cost more energy to remove than it produced when released.

Urine capture would work great if it's attached to every person.

Even with renewable energy and electric transportation, if we could keep using oil but not produce CO2, then we should. Cheap energy is lifting humanity out of poverty.

You're assuming that the carbon capture process is cheaper than the shrinking price advantage of fossil fuels over renewables.

I'm not. I'm just leaving room for an equilibrium that includes oil.

I don't believe we'll be able to take cheap sources of power offline without affecting the bottom line for the developing world. Poor countries can't make the choice to regulate themselves into worse conditions.

Centralizing carbon capture at power plants can be cost effective. The tech is almost within reach. It will vastly increase the amount of available energy in the world.

Electrifying vehicles at a mass scale actually has a lot of problems, not the least of which is does the grid support the ability to transmit that much power. In many places it does not.

That aside, electrifying vehicles doesn't necessarily reduce emissions significantly. It may simply shift the emissions from individual vehicles to the power plant that produces the power that charges the cars.

Now this is nearly always a net positive: large-scale fossil-fuel burning power generation is pretty much always more efficient (even accounting for transmission power loss) but the point is that emissions don't go to zero.

Another interesting thought: the price of gasoline acts as a barrier to vehicle usage to some degree. As in, knowing you have to spend $50 to fill up the tank affects your behaviour to varying degrees. Well with electric vehicles depending on where you live that marginal cost might be <$5 per tank-equivalent of range.

I wonder if that means that with a fully electrified vehicle fleet, people will end up driving more because of the lower marginal costs.

I remember when EVs where a pointless toy for rich people to flaunt their wealth, now they're causing problems by letting poor people drive more. That's some remarkble progress they've made while still somehow remaining vaguely problematic.

> people will end up driving more because of the lower marginal costs.

I suspect places will have to move to either London-style congestion charges or milage-based road taxes to offset this. With an admittedly big loss of privacy, you could even price at the level of individual roads and put Uber-style surge pricing on the roads themselves.

Another possibility is that the "markets in everything" self-driving companies win and cars become a capital asset that can work itself. No reason to drive your car around uselessly if you can rent it out instead, and in theory this could result in fewer cars. However I'm skeptical.

Grid stress in the first world isn't a big problem since electric vehicles can charge when the grid is under less pressure. The demand curve over a day has a reasonably predictable shape and EV charging can often be done when wholesale prices are low. Of course we will need to increase capacity, but that can be done over time.

Fossil power to generate electricity that then powers your car is less carbon intensive than just using an internal combustion engine. The overhead of getting oil out of the ground, refining it and transporting it is big. You then lose lots of energy as heat as you run your engine.

Average US driver goes 13.5kmi/year. This is about 36mi/ day. Most cars will get 2-4 mi/kWh, so this is about 12kWh/day. Average charging of like 8 hours gives about 1.5 kW over night. This isn't nothing, but it's a bunch less than people think about. I was regularly driving off of what a standard 120v socket would supply. (Not right now, because I can no longer charge overnight, due to a recall)

Also grid power can become more green if more green sources come online, but your gas powered car will always be gas powered.

Also keep in mind the limited supply/uses of Gallium at the moment, it tends to be a biproduct from other mining activities. If suddenly there were a large and scaled demand for this material, then I am quite sure we would see a huge spike in price in the near/medium term, and future price would depend on the new demand, and capabilities to get sufficient supply. $250/kg is pretty cheap at the moment;

> Another way of putting that is when the cost of carbon capture and/or non-greenhouse gas emitting energy sources is profitable, that's when you'll see change.

We may be underpricing the collapse of our civilization due to climate change. It'll be extremely inconvenient and really bad for businesses all over.

Preprint of the paper is available in other parts of this post, but it does say this:

> The solid co-contributor of silver-gallium rods ensures a cyclic sustainable process

Unsure if this means the gallium is consumed or not during the process.

It's the same story of business and innovation as usual. And what about the pollution raw materials can cause....

does the semiconductor industry not use large quantities of GaAs? Has the industry replaced its use with something else? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallium_arsenide

How much energy does it cost to simply heat CO2 to the point where it breaks into its constituents?

They stated it operates at room temp so I am assuming that one could in fact pipe in CO2 from factory stacks once some processing of cooling the CO2 from the factory stacks has been implemented.

Give you an idea. Gen plant burning natural gas produces CO2, use some of gen electric to cool the emitted CO2 down then mine the result battery artifacts

Do we need something like... Business, corporations can't do one thing: not making money. If they don't and can't pay taxes they go bankrupt and can't operate anymore.

Can we have a carbon bankrupt ? If a company can't prove they are not emitting CO2 or getting CO2 out of the atmosphere then they are not allowed to operate anymore ?

I know it's nickelodeonsimplistic but can't carbon emissions be considered more important than money when deciding to allow companies to operate ?

If we would charge the fossil fuel industry for the cost of destroying the environment, the millions of lives lost due to pollution, it would become infeasible to pump or mine more stuff out of the ground.

We don't need technological solutions, we need political solutions. Now

Well, well, well…

The political solution were nuclear plants in the 70’s. They were damned by the Ecologists (at least in Europe). We are reaping what we sowed.

Where do you want the energy to come from?

Not building more nuclear in the seventies probably was a bad decision. But today it is not at all clear that nuclear is the cheapest solution for carbon-free energy. Neither is it clear whether we can scale nuclear quickly enough.

If I waited for the clearest, best solution to become apparent to me every time I went to get something done I would still be deciding what food to buy at the grocery store. Sometimes it makes sense to run with a "good enough" solution until something better can be found because the alternative is doing the shitty thing you've always done, or worse, doing nothing at all.

Renewables could also be the "good enough" solution, at least until 70% penetration or so where you want to start building storage. Starting with those has the benefit that you don't need to sink a couple of billions into a big construction site and then wait 10-15 years before the first kWh comes out. That buys you more time to figure out what the actual best solution is.

> They were damned by the Ecologists (at least in Europe)

This is controversial

No, you and I kept up the demand on the fossil fuel industry without which it would not exist and all of us went along with it and now you want them to pay for your and my indulgence. How sweetly ironic! It's never our fault, is it?

This is a classic case of victim blaming. You and I didn't "keep up demand" because we wanted to, we "kept up demand" because it was the only option available to heat our homes.

It's not our fault the industry didn't provide us with alternatives.

Whether you blame the fossil fuel industry or not, they don't have the cure to their destruction in their back pocket or something.

Even if you seized all the stocks and bonds of the fossil fuel industry, you wouldn't have the money required to solve this problem and you wouldn't have a plan to solve the problem.

It's not our fault the industry didn't provide us with alternatives.

It's not really the job of a given industry to provide alternatives. That job, in a modern democratic society, devolves to the state. The US state certainly failed there and was corrupted by private industry (auto and petroleum certainly). But the only way out is the state stepping up and moreover, the state stepping up with statist solutions - building things (public transit), requiring things (electric cars), prohibiting things (CO2 generating production processes) and requiring things (Non-CO2 generating things and possibly/eventually sequestering). Honestly, I'd see anyone thinking taxes or credits could be the solution as part of the problem.

They might not have the cure in their back pocket, but they sure hid evidence of the consequences of their actions for decades. [1]

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97...

So, for $4.3 trillion dollars / year we can turn the 43 billion tonnes of CO2 we emit per year into oxygen and carbon crust. Which is twice the annual revenue for the global oil industry.

"Which is twice the annual revenue for the global oil industry."

That means that for every $1 the oil industry makes, it is creating $2 of debt for future generations.

This is vandalism, pure and simple

Well, don’t forget the cost to concentrate CO2 from 440 ppm in the atmosphere to 10^6 ppm. The current cost of direct air capture that I’ve seen is about $600-$1000/ton (via Climeworks).

Capturing CO2 from flue gas at power plants should be a good bit cheaper, but I think it’s still significant.

Yeah we could turn CO2 into coal or we could just stop burning coal in the first place.

That sounds about right, that it costs more to ameliorate the problem than can be earned by causing it.

That is assuming it takes less than a year to convert all that amount. At the given rate of .1 liter/minute, you'd need a lot of those installations or quite the scale-up.

That would make it pretty feasible. A 25% reduction in consumption (if the activity were purely subtractive from the economy, which it probably wouldn't be) is manageable.

Any financing options?

How can they capture 92% of the CO2 generated by burning coal for less energy created by burning it, creating steam, running the steam through a turbine which then runs a generator, through a switching yard, and out to the world? The Carnot limit is far less than half, and yet this can get most of the Carbon back, with a balance of almost half of the energy? I did the math on this in the thread about this last week, and it seems like over-unity, a big red flag.

The need for the worlds supply of gallium and a lot of silver and other chemicals signals more red flags.

HN Story 8 days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28873458

My response: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28874831

The carbon output isn't pure carbon, but carbon oxides. Some of the oxygen is stripped from CO2 and the result is carbon-oxygen solids which are apparently industrially useful.

The problem is that if you turn around and use those carbon materials in industry, then you really haven’t captured the carbon at all. All that would accomplish is playing an emissions shell game, allowing fossil fuel consumers to shift the emissions to someone else.

For carbon capture to be useful from a climate perspective, we have to actually lock away the consumed carbon somewhere where it can’t enter the fast carbon cycle.

Depends on what you do with the thing when you're done with it. Dumping it in a landfill after a decade would indeed by carbon capture.

This is great. That said, to put things into perspective, the CO2 surplus we have to offset is 20 giga tonnes of CO2 every year.

I’m actually interested in using this for terraforming Venus. We’ve got plenty of energy from sunlight and very concentrated co2. To keep them at the right temperature We could build floating blimps with these machines on board.

This would be amazing. Venus having nearly the same gravity as earth gives it a big plus in terms of future colonies. The other issue I believe is it’s spin - meaning a normal day on Venus is something like 5k hours compared to earths 24… that means you cook for a lot longer on one side instead of a nice even toasting like we have here on earth… still I like your idea because gravity is probably one of the bigger factors of creating a future nice home…

The long days are a tough cookie for sure. I wonder if we could make a planet scale Hvac system to pump the heat to the cold side.

I wish there was more data on the reaction mechanism. It's unclear which way the equilibrium would shift at the high temperatures present on Venus, or if the solvent is an important part of the reaction/would be in liquid form on Venus (most solvents would not). But I agree that would be an awesome application.

There are certain altitudes on Venus where the temperature is earth like.

A preprint of the paper mentioned in the post is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/347609399_Mechanica...

The following link has the additional supplementary images missing from your link https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-112257/v1

I quickly skimmed it but the protocol on page 13 seems simple, the chemicals involved are relatively low risk (verify the MSDS).

Mix some gallium metal with a powder of a Silver salt in a mortar and pestle, put it in a solvent, stir it with a magnetic stirrer, while bubbling CO2, in a N2 atmosphere, and carbon snowflakes should float to the top in a few hours.

Maybe some chemist can help make it into a safe for all kid science-fair project.

A tangential thought.

Since the last crash of oil prices there was a radical move toward rare earth material mining. Every minining and exploration company tried look into ways to mine and find better uses of rare earth minerals that would generate the same pre-crash oli and gas profits.

But reviewing half a decades stock research or DD of these newly pivoted mining companies I find nothing to be radical and it is often the same repackaged environmental well being rhetoric from the industry.

There is no pioneering business, leader or technology in rare earth mining. And I am often very skeptical of mining industry talking about positive environmental consequences of mining.

Even though we are divided on Musk's contribution in revolution in EV industry but he didn't push an environmental agenda IMO but he pushed for providing better consumer utility while minimzing negative environmental consequences. If rare earth industry as a whole quite non-inuitivetly provide or promise of enhanced utility (in the economic sense) without mentioning positive environmental consequences as a headline then I will believe.

Would this method be able to grow single crystal grahite crystals if it were controlled tightly? A single of crystal graphite would have a lot of useful properties much like silicon. Because of its anisotropic strength it can be much stronger and more flexible than composites. Things like turbine blades could be carved from single crystal graphite.

I would be remiss not to post the amazing LockPickingLawyer videos using Gallium to pwn locks:


Having a legitimately feasible way to do carbon capture is a Good Thing as we phase out coal fired generation.

If it can be retrofitted to existing generators, then at least they stop generating CO2 into the atmosphere.

There's been a lot of nonsensical "CCS" (Carbon Capture and Storage) where the "storage" is "somehow pump it back underground where it screws the water table".

At least this mechanism captures the CO2 into a form where not only is it potentially useful, but is also easy to re-store in a stable way, potentially back to the same coal mines the original fossil fuel came from.

So you can separate it to oxygen and carbon at a 92% efficiency for €30 max or something? If you could now burn the newly donned carbon again and maybe enhance the burning with the harvested oxygen then how much is that worth as energy produced monetarily? Maybe not the eternal mover but just saying this might just be how this will play out in real life in the end (once again).

I’m not sure: is the Gallium a catalyst?

The process described in the paper uses both gallium and silver as catalysts.

The advantage of using gallium is that it is in liquid form. When the gallium is regenerated after catalyzing one cycle of the reaction, it mixes again with the liquid gallium.

Being liquid ensures a long life for the catalyst. Solid catalysts are never recovered perfectly after taking part in the reaction and then being again deposited on their support, so they degrade much faster.

The mechanism of solid catalyst degradation is similar to that which limits the life of a rechargeable battery with solid electrodes.

And if so, could it be replaced by orgnano-catalysts which were in the news recently? I only had chemistry in school but maybe it's even as simple as using parts from the chemistry involved in photosynthesis?

Folks, just to clarify: "catalyst" is a very broad chemistry term for "something that helps a chemical reaction take place without being a reagent nor product of said reaction." So don't get the wrong idea: catalysts have quite specific uses, and you cannot substitute any one catalyst for any other.

Yes. Thanks for that clarification. What I meant in my original question is if we consume huge amounts of gallium to do this. Ie. can it scale?

It depends a lot on which will be the lifetime of the catalyst at industrial scales.

Gallium is one of the most expensive metals, not because it is very rare, but because it is very diluted. There are no minerals with a high concentration of gallium, enough to make their commercial exploitation worthwhile.

There are no mines of gallium. Gallium is always extracted as a secondary product in mining operations where either aluminum or zinc is the main product.

Because of that, the available quantity of gallium depends on the volume of the productions of aluminum and of zinc, and it follows their yearly oscillations.

How much of the cost is the energy? Would hooking it up to a wind turbine help?

The article says 230 kWh per ton of CO2, so you can just multiply that by a cost per kWh, e.g. 0.07 $/kWh for industry in the US.

230 * 0.07 = 16.1 dollars.

So that suggests that most of the cost is not energy.

> 92% efficiency in converting a tonne of CO2, using just 230kWh of energy. They estimate this equates to a cost of around $100 per tonne of CO2.

Not sure if this is really competitive enough. Just read recently[1][2] that EEMPA based solution can capture at a cost of $47

[1] http://netl.doe.gov/projects/files/CostAndPerformanceBaselin... [2] https://scitechdaily.com/cheaper-carbon-capture-is-on-the-wa...

Hum... You are comparing a process that separates CO2 from a gas with a process that chemically breaks CO2. Those things do not compare.

That depends on what you are trying to achieve? Sure, the captured CO2 is still CO2, but you can put it in an empty gas field somewhere and the net effect on atmospheric CO2 (which is what we are concerned about with regards to climate change) is the same as if you had split apart the molecules.

The process described in the paper can be used only after CO2 is separated from the air, not instead of it.

Nevertheless converting CO2 into a solid reduces the volume one thousand times and makes its storage very simple.

I doubt that there could be found enough subterranean spaces that can be sealed well enough, in which to pump as much CO2 as it would be needed to reduce the concentration in the air.

Yes, and as long as you can store it somewhere, all the power to you. Just ignore the chemical option and do that.

But anybody wanting to use the carbon or store it on any way that is not the limited amount of underground space will use both.

Assuming 16 tons per person per year emissions [0], you can offset 1 person's carbon footprint for $1600 per year.

[0]: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/carbon-costs-quantifie...

Every American uses around 400 gallons of gasoline and 12,000 kwh electricity per year. So if you put a tax of $2 on each gallon of gasoline and 7 cent on every kwh electricity, you would finance that.

And once it scales, it will be cheaper and cheaper, jut like most other products. With a 10 percent price reduction per year, it would be $620 per person in 10 years, roughly the same as an internet bill.

In the rest of the world it's even cheaper. The average person in the world could be offset for $400 now.

But if you get a load of solid carbon as a byproduct that could offset a lot of the energy cost, assuming the solid carbon is in a useful form.

Will this result in an increase in O2 levels? If yes, what risk does that bring?

Not an issue. The oxygen release is just oxygen that was already in the atmosphere before it was used to burn oil.

Even if that weren't the case, the atmosphere is 21% oxygen and 0.04% CO2.

Giant predatory dragonflies the size of seagulls, if the fossil record is anything to go by.


O2 levels are currently decreasing. In a thousand years we will run out

Try >1 billion years from now

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A noble discovery...

However, even if this was an economically viable solution to the perceived problem of CO2 in the atmosphere, this doesn't help with the goal of setting up a global government and global tax, so it would be ignored.

Anthropogenic global warming, as a studied issue, is not about solving the world's problems; it's about setting up a global government with a global tax. It always has been; it hasn't even pretended to be anything else. The motivations have always been ostensibly about solving global warming, but the plans have always been very public; set up a global tax and a global government to implement this tax. That could not be more clear.

Ask yourself, if you were planning on taxing the entire planet, even if it was only .1% of their GDP (~80 billion), would you rather have that money or have some random scientist discover the solution to the problem that leads to you getting 80 billion dollars?

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