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US can slow climate change with new carbon-capture technology

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Graciela Chichilnisky, one of the original architects of the Kyoto protocol, and Peter Eisenberger, who founded the Earth Institute at Columbia have developed yet another system that uses the excess heat produced by power plants to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Ms. Chichilnisky told me that she expects capturing and selling CO2 for an array of industrial purposes will more than pay for itself in the coming years.

One use for the greenhouse gas is in enhanced oil recovery, where C02 is pumped into depleted oil wells to release untapped petroleum. The booming global market for such recovery alone is expected to top $800 billion within a decade, according to Chichilnisky.

Carbon capture for commercial purposes could potentially take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than we are currently putting in, while producing a healthy profit, Chichilnisky says. But governments around the world will need to grease the wheels by mandating a carbon market, in which industries are required to pay to remediate the damage that their pollution creates.

It makes sense. With innovative new approaches like carbon capture on the verge of becoming economically viable, a little push from Washington and other world capitals could go a long way toward creating a market-based brake on climate change.

Whether carbon capture or some other developing technology is the answer remains to be seen. But a free-market approach, where different systems could compete on a level playing field, would quickly drive prices down and sort out which technology is the most cost-effective.

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