In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

To Store the Future

Posted 3/31/2009 by Grant Mitchell



We actually can store the future. Capturing carbon will do exactly that because our future literally hinges upon dealing with carbon quickly and effectively.


It dawned on me that like so many species on earth today whose existence is in jeopardy because their habitats are being destroyed by pollution and human expansion, our human habitat is being threatened too. By climate change.


Today we saw announcements, finally, of government support for Carbon Capture and Storage projects.  While these announcements are still late they are a small step in the right direction. They are a classic example of how green projects can be part of the economic stimulus package and the basis of the next industrial revolution. Imagine how much investment will go into CCS once it gets going. Imagine the international market for our technology.


One of the frustrating things about climate change solutions is that there seems always to be someone saying that the ideas will not work, or will create a worse problem, or are too expensive.


In the case of CCS, the arguments are made that it is far too expensive a means of dealing with carbon and there is no guarantee the carbon will stay in the ground. And, to be sure, the price per tonne of a pipeline in Alberta to carry CCS is something like $120 per tonne. In the case of ethanol, it is argued that it is tantamount to burning food (Interesting that nobody seems to recognize that we use valuable crop land that could be used for food production to grow hops for beer and grapes for wine).


Ideal solutions such as solar and wind energy still have far to go until they can have practical application in the magnitude required for today’s power demands.


In the short time that we have, we are fast losing the luxury of waiting to find the perfect solution. We are also losing time to persuade people to embrace these perfect solutions.


I believe that once we start we will refine our technologies to meet most of the early criticisms and we will gain time on the problem to do this. Ethanol is a case in point. After relatively few years of burning food, we are now seeing workable and practical technologies (from manure based to garbage based) that are beginning to replace food grains in the production of ethanol. CCS will become more reasonable as more and more uses are found for it, like enhanced recovery, which will have commercial value.


The point here is that we need to get started and then refine as we go. This stimulus package is a great opportunity to create lots of green jobs, build infrastructure to support a sustainable economy, and to develop technologies that we can sell to the rest of the world.

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