Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Technologies for removing carbon dioxide aren't cheap

To many people removing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere seems like an ideal solution to tackle climate change. But are our current technologies enough to pull such massive task? According to the team of scientists lead by Princeton engineer Robert Socolow using currently available technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be far more expensive than simply preventing the emission of the carbon dioxide in the first place.

In this latest study the scientists were focused at technologies known as "Direct Air Capture (DAC)," which use chemicals to absorb carbon dioxide from the open air, concentrating the carbon dioxide, and then storing it safely underground.

The scientists have calculated that by using these technologies building and operating a carbon removal system would cost at least $600 per metric ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. On the other hand removing carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a coal-fired power plant would cost about $80 per ton.

What this means is that DAC technology is anything but economically viable solution to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The scientists believe that the more logical approach would be to use electricity more efficiently (improved energy efficiency) as well as modifying fossil fuel fired power plants so their emissions are kept from the atmosphere or to shut them down entirely and replace them with new low-carbon alternatives.

The reason why scientists decided to look more closely at the DAC technology was because DAC technology has entered many policy discussions, though more at theoretical level than actually being considered to be used in practice.

The fact that DAC technology has proven too costly shouldn't be considered as a failure from the scientific point of view. On the contrary, it should spark even more researches and even more creative scientific solutions because lets face it science is our only hope in fight against climate change. Whom else can we turn to? Politics?

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