From: Danielle Thé
Published August 15, 2012 11:56 AM

Carbon Capture? Is it a Foreseeable Reality?

Interesting new research by MIT takes a look at the viability of capturing carbon from the air. The study suggests that, at least in the near future, this would not be a cost effective measure. 

Since most of the world’s governments have not yet enacted regulations to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, some experts have advocated the development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. But a new MIT study shows that, at least for the foreseeable future, such proposals are not realistic because their costs would vastly exceed those of blocking emissions right at the source, such as at the powerplants that burn fossil fuels.

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Some purveyors of various new technologies for scrubbing carbon dioxide out of the air are reminiscent of "snake-oil salesmen," says Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative and co-author of the new analysis published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was co-authored by MIT civil and environmental engineering postdoc Kurt Zenz House, along with researchers at C12 Energy in Berkeley, Calif., and at Stanford University.

Herzog and his co-authors are not alone in criticizing these proposals. An analysis earlier this year by the American Physical Society came to similar conclusions, although Herzog, a peer reviewer of that study, says that report "didn't go far enough" in its criticism of air-capture systems. In that analysis, the best open-air carbon-capture systems proposed were found to cost at least eight times as much, per ton of carbon avoided, as those installed at the powerplant.

It's not surprising that those promoting these concepts find an eager audience, Herzog says. "It's so enticing — you don’t have to change anything about your lifestyle" to reduce greenhouse gases and slow the global climate change that virtually all the world's climate scientists agree is underway. "It'd be such a great solution — if it were real."

C02 image via Shutterstock

Read more at MIT.

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