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Thoughts On … #1: Fighting Climate Change, Part Four

So, the takeaways from the past three blog posts are (among other things) –

  1. The only way to have a chance at reversing climate change (and the damage it will do to all of us) is to remove more greenhouse gases from the environment year-over-year than what mankind (and the Earth itself) release into the atmosphere.
  2. The amount of carbon dioxide released in the past year weighed approximately sixty billion tons.
  3. For the purpose of this thought exercise, I am going to presuppose that we as a planet hold emissions year over year to that sixty billion ton level. This is problematic, as data points to a steady rise in emissions year-over-year. Still, sixty billion gives me a number to work with – and is the most recent yearly emission levels available.

Carbon capture technology exists in many forms. Chemists have toyed with synthetic petroleum since at least the 1920s. One company that I know of in the synthetic petroleum business is Changing World Technologies (CWT). Though CWT is not the only company in the world that has developed a process to turn plastics and other carbon-based waste into oil, they are (for a number of reasons) the company in this line of work that I know the most about.

CWT’s oil production process uses heat and pressure to convert anything from yard clippings to animal waste to discarded plastic into oil. And the process does this in a matter of hours. As CO2 is carbon-based, can a process be devised (if one does not already exist) to combine CO2 and discarded plastic to create petroleum (science leads me to believe the answer is yes) using a process similar to the one Changing World Technologies uses? Such a process would help to address rising CO2 emissions by locking carbon from CO2 back into a liquid form. It would help reduce plastic waste by recycling spent plastic back into petroleum. And this petroleum could then be pumped back into the ground to keep it out of circulation. If the amount of carbon from the CO2 and other greenhouse gases is greater than the amount of carbon emissions in a given year, our planet’s climate might (over a long period of time) reset itself to more life-friendly levels.

Simple logic so far.

Today, I will write an email to CWT and to Howard Herzog. I will ask CWT’s media relations department about the energy use of CWT’s machines compared to petroleum output (among other questions). I will also try to start a dialog with Mr. Herzog that, among other things, will hopefully lead me to individuals around the world working on carbon capture technology. Starting tomorrow, I hope to broaden this thought experiment to include plastics.

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