Carbon capture is starting to work. Environmentalists freak out

Caption: Making this out thin air isn’t easy, but Australian scientists have done it.

For those of us who have resisted pledging allegiance to Mother Gaia, the contemporary mania over climate change more often resembles an epidemic of religious zealotry than reasoned public discourse. Nowhere is this more evident than in the believers? attitude to ?carbon?, whether it be in the form of carbon dioxide gas or coal. ?Carbon? is regarded less as a natural substance than as some kind of demonic entity: the ?Sky Dragon?, as it has been dubbed by one popular book.

Surely, if you stand in the fervent believers? corner, the nascent technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) should surely be viewed as a positive?

Apparently not. The demon must not be merely tamed, it must be cast out into the abyss entirely. Quote:

A technology that removes carbon dioxide from the air has received significant backing from major fossil fuel companies?But climate campaigners are worried that the technology will be used to extract even more oil. End of quote.

CCS has been something of a holy grail for energy companies over the past decade. While there have been serious doubts over whether such technology will ever be feasible, the basic principle seems at least laudable: remove that pesky carbon from the atmosphere and put it safely back in the ground from whence it came. The sky dragon?s teeth will be drawn, and Gaia saved.

It finally looks as if CCS might indeed be feasible. I recently reported on an Australian-developed process to convert atmospheric CO2 back to solid carbon. Other techniques are even further down the development track. Quote:

Swiss company Climeworks is already capturing CO2 and using it to boost vegetable production.

Carbon Engineering says that its direct air capture (DAC) process is now able to capture the gas for under $100 a tonne?the company plans to build its first commercial facilities. These industrial-scale DAC plants could capture up to one million tonnes of CO2 from the air each year? [and turn] this gas into a synthetic crude oil.

CO2 can also be used to flush out the last remaining deposits of oil in wells that are past their prime?It’s estimated that using CO2 can deliver an extra 30% of crude from oilfields with the added benefit that the gas is then sequestered permanently in the ground. End of quote.

I?ve often asked, if renewables are the winners that the believers insist they are, why aren?t the big energy companies pouring money into them? After all, they may be as venal as any other corporation, but they?re not stupid. If renewables really were the future, surely the big companies would be cornering the market? Quote:

One of the other investors in Carbon Engineering is BHP, best known for its coal mining interests.

“The reality is that fossil fuels will be around for several decades whether in industrial processes or in transportation,” said Dr Fiona Wild, BHP’s head of sustainability and climate change.

“What we need to do is invest in those low-emission technologies that can significantly reduce the emissions from these processes.? End of quote.

This has to be good news for the climate change lobby, surely? Quote:

“It’s a huge concern,” Tzeporah Berman, international programme director for Stand dot earth, told BBC News.

“We need to be working together to figure out how we move away completely from fossil fuel – that’s our moral and economic challenge??

Others are concerned that the development of direct air capture devices may just encourage some people to think that they don’t have to personally reduce their carbon footprint. End of quote.

Well, if the technology is commercially viable and scalable, then the fact surely is that they don?t? The world can coast along for decades more on cheap, reliable energy while development continues on alternative energy sources that don?t cost a bomb while degrading the energy grid. Quote:

It’s impossible to say if Carbon Engineering’s idea will emerge as the type of device that makes a major difference in the battle against climate change.

Certainly, the company believes that its machines could become as common as water treatment plants – providing a valuable service, yet hardly noticed by the general public. End of quote.

CCS is an infant technology, but rapidly coming to fruition. When it does work, so much the better. Shunning a useful technology because of a zealous devotion to some ?moral cause? is not a reasoned response: it?s religious delusion.