“The ratio of energy input for the entire capture and storage system would be between three-to-five times the energy gained from the original carbon-based fuel.”
– Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser
The “Carbon Capture Syndrome” (CCS) — Part 1
Wasting (fossil fuel generated) energy on hare-brained “save-the-climate” schemes
By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser
Most commonly these days, the CCS acronym stands for: “Carbon Capture and Storage” – as you can surmise from the title above, I have a slightly different interpretation of “CCS.”
“Carbon” – whatever
Of course, all this nonsense of “Carbon” storage, etc. really refers to “carbon dioxide” and not to elemental carbon as in coal or diamonds, nor to carbon-containing fuels. For my non-chemist readers, that difference is akin to the difference between “night and day” or “hell and heaven.” So, not to belabor this point, let’s assume that “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” are synonymous.
The Collins Dictionary states “CCS is technology used to stop large amounts of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, by separating the carbon dioxide from emissions and injecting it into geological formations. CCS refers to the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from emissions to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.”
To drive home the point, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences just announced their decision of awarding the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer for their work that “helped answer fundamental questions on how to promote long-term sustainable growth and enhance human welfare.”
Both Nordhaus and Romer are ardent supporters of “carbon pricing,” a novel tax on all consumers of any carbon-containing material. As the website Carbon-Price.com says, Nordhaus’ view is “Climate change is a member of a special kind of economic activity known as global public goods.” To solve this problem, “At a minimum, all countries should agree to penalize carbon and other GHG emissions by the agreed upon minimum price.”
Furthermore, Nordhaus claims: “The shadow prices, […], actually represented the cost of putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And with that, climate change suddenly became a problem that could be attacked with the tools of economics.”
In my mind, this claim of “cost” is nothing else than promoting an energy-deprived lifestyle for the majority of mankind with a continued lack of food, clean water, energy, access to health services, etc.
Why the War against Carbon?
The CCS idea presumes that this invisible trace gas, called carbon dioxide with the chemical notation CO2, currently present in the earth’s atmosphere at around 0.04%, is going to make everything in the world fry if not stopped from increasing. Actually, the really “wise men” (and equally really “wise women”) are calling not only for a stop to burning any carbon-based fuels (like natural gas, oil, coal, dung, or wood). Instead they are actually calling for using technologies to extract this “evil” gas from the atmosphere – with no costs spared.
For example, various Canadian government agencies have been rooting for such “save-the world” enthusiasts that, presumably with generous government grants plan to build systems that may promise “no cost”, or “free energy”, or other earth-shattering benefits. For example, the Carbon Engineering website claims “Direct Air Capture [DAC] is a technology that processes atmospheric air, removes CO2 and purifies it. CE’s DAC technology does this in a closed loop where the only major inputs are water and energy, and the output is a stream of pure, compressed CO₂.”
Yes, indeed, all the technologies are in place to do all that; there’s absolutely no technological problem to do that. However, there is a (not so) small proviso.
That proviso is: It will cost you (much) more energy to do that than you got from burning your carbon-type fuel to begin with. As a rough (low-end) estimate, I think that the ratio of energy input for the entire capture and storage system would be between three-to-five times the energy gained from the original carbon-based fuel. Clearly, that’s not a wise use of (any type) of energy; in fact, rather the opposite is the case, namely a fantastic waste of it.
Of course, understanding the basics of sciences, like chemistry, math, and physics, just for example, is not a prerequisite to become an important high level politician these days. Perhaps, it may even be an (unwritten) requirement for a job in Cabinet (?). One can certainly get such ideas from public statements by some government representatives (and many others).
However, I think that the Roman judicial principle of “in dubious pro reo,” (Latin for “[When] in doubt, [decide] for the accused”) is a time-honored way to provide society with an anchor of justice. After all, it has served the western world quite well for millennia, ever since the time of Aristotle (384-322 BC) or earlier. Now back to carbon dioxide and the CCS syndrome.
CCS = Energy Waste
Following the CCS idea (using the Collins definition) would be a gigantic waste of resources and effort that – even if it were to be widely enforced – would not make any difference to “climate change” at all. In fact, if anything, it would rather increase the energy deprivation of many of the world’s poorer countries.
What the poorer nations on this globe really need is not less but more cheap and reliable energy. So, instead of wasting (fossil fuel generated) energy on hare-brained “save-the-climate” schemes, let’s send them this energy in form of free coal, oil, or natural gas.
Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is a professional scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Technical University, Munich, Germany. He has worked as a research scientist and project chief at Environment Canada‘s Canada Centre for Inland Waters for over 30 years and is currently Director of Research at TerraBase Inc. He is author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, computer programs, trade magazines, and newspaper articles.
Dr. Kaiser has been president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research, a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers for several journals, Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly a decade, and an adjunct professor. He has contributed to a variety of scientific projects and reports and has made many presentations at national and international conferences.
Dr. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts
Dr. Kaiser can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org