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Zero-emission Power Plants Proposed 737

Posted by michael
from the cold-fusion dept.
ckbreckenridge writes "Supercompact, superfast, superpowerful turbines called ZEPPS (zero-emission power plants), designed to combat global warming, could help produce the electrical power needed to keep up with 21st century demand. They would consume methane and oxygen and produce liquid carbon dioxide, which could be sequestered underground. The current electricity grid would need to be replaced by a 'supergrid' across the USA, says Jesse H. Ausubel in The Industrial Physicist. Work on such a system should start as soon as possible, since CO2 levels leaped up 2 ppm in the past two years as global warming becomes more of a reality."
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Zero-emission Power Plants Proposed

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  • by Ziak (807893) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:14PM (#10525272)
    How is this diffrent then toxic waste from nuclear plants being stored under ground.... if we continue storring all this wouldn't eventually run out of place to put it?
    • For one, CO2 isn't radioactive for thousands of years.
      • But that CO2 will sit there for thousands of years and eventually escape into the atmosphere. If the global warmers are correct, that will cause catastrophic warming, the sky will fall, plagues of locusts will eat our first-born, and all kinds of other nonsense. So nuclear waste is far safer in the long run.
        • by iamacat (583406) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:58PM (#10525979)
          Ah, but CO2 is good for life, just not too much of it at once. Plants will recapture it if it escapes slowly, indeed farms above the deposit would get a good harvest from a kind of furtilizer. Also, if you bury under the ocean, much of what escapes will react with alkaline water and end up as some mineral deposits.
          • by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @02:57PM (#10527280)
            Ah, but CO2 is good for life, just not too much of it at once

            The problem with storing vast amounts of CO2 underground is when it does get released and it will, it will flood the atmosphere with CO2. In smaller amounts plants can convert the CO2 to oxygen. So we could concievably add CO2 to the atmosphere as long as we increase rain forest size and create a balance to the CO2. But an extremely large amount of stored CO2 being released because of tectonic motion is not a pleasant thought. Everywhere man inhabits, we kill vast amounts of plant life. We now have billions of humans on the earth consuming resources and producing waste. How long do you think we can sustain that? We have to discover "new" sources of energy, shrink the worlds population dramatically and take care of our resources. All these things are really tough problems. But as long as we as a world, not just a few industrialized countries, work towards solutions. we can eventually solve these problems. But the current situation is while some countries work towards solving these problems, many others don't, instead they get exemptions because they are poor countries. Worse yet, their populations are growing rapidly because they are having 15 kids per family all born into poverty.

            • by kraut (2788) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @04:32PM (#10528571)
              >But the current situation is while some countries work towards solving these problems, many others don't, instead they get exemptions because they are poor countries.
              Worse yet, some industrialised nations exempt themselves from the effort because they just don't give a fuck, and would rather drive a separate hummer for each member of the family ;)

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @01:13PM (#10526169) Homepage Journal
          "...catastrophic warming, the sky will fall, plagues of locusts will eat our first-born, and all kinds of other nonsense."

          "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!" --Ghostbusters

      • Not to mention we could always install more CO2 processors [google.com]
    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:18PM (#10525342) Journal

      How is this diffrent then toxic waste from nuclear plants being stored under ground.... if we continue storring all this wouldn't eventually run out of place to put it?

      That was my thought. Let's leave the problem of dealing with our consumption to future generations. Isn't that the whole problem in the first place?

      What industrial uses could we find for this stored CO2 other then my silly suggestion [slashdot.org]? Is there a scalable way to build greenhouses to take care of the problem naturally (photosynthesis)? My gut tells me probably not.

      • by pragma_x (644215) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:45PM (#10525782) Journal
        What industrial uses could we find for this stored CO2 other then my silly suggestion?

        Simply put: carbon is rediculously useful stuff. Any method of sequestering a large portion of it is going to have some kind of benefit down the road.

        Off the top of my head, i'd say that once carbon-nanotube based materials are practical, the world will become pretty hungry for *any* source of carbon at a concentration higher than what's present in the atmosphere. The trick is taking something like CO2 and turning it into graphite or something else more readily useful for industry.

        On a very different tangent, the DOE also suggests that you can use some chemistry to keep it from ever becoming gaseous (reduce chance of air pollution). They also suggest using bioremediation to convert the CO2 back into something useful like methane.
        http://www.fe.doe.gov/programs/sequestra tion/novel concepts/

        More realistically, if plants are forced to trap their CO2 output, we're more likely to see them combine it with other materials and convert it into carbonates that we already use in industry: like chalk.
    • by bperkins (12056) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:21PM (#10525393) Homepage Journal
      It's different because it's much much worse.

      The amount of waste produced by a nuclear power plant is fairly small, wheras the amount of CO2 produced is on the order of the amount of fuel it burns.
      • by Catbeller (118204) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:41PM (#10525728) Homepage
        Um. The obvious point is this: the CO2 will have been released anyway if the fuel were burned as it is now. Even if some of the liquid gets out and turns gaseous during a catastrophic leak, it would be a tiny, tiny percentage of the CO2 that would have been released, correction, will be released from the current plants. And the LCO2 would be in thousands of farms, so there would be no major disaster.

        CO2 also doesn't explode, so it's safe to store. And simple methods could be used in the future to turn it back into hydrocarbons, if someone wants to go to the trouble.

        And here's a thought: we could eventually learn to regulate the heat buildup in the earth's atmosphere by controlled release of the stored LCO2. If an ice age cometh, we can stopeth it by metering out the LCO2 just enough to increase the greenhouse effect to stop the cooling. Conversely, we can mitigate the atmospheric warming we are definitely experiencing today by not flooding the atmosphere with the CO2 we are currently tossing up.
        • by TheGavster (774657) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:47PM (#10525825) Homepage
          CO2 also doesn't explode, so it's safe to store.

          Um ... neither does nuclear waste. What CO2 does do, that nuclear waste does not, is roll down mountains as a cloud, smothering entire villages.
          • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @01:11PM (#10526148) Homepage Journal
            Ok, let's make a note of that: Don't store the liquid CO2 on the tops of mountains.

            Actually, probably the best place to store it is deep under the ocean, as the pressure will keep it heavier than water anyway. The only way it can come back up to bite us is if we see significant drops in sea level, and I think we'll have bigger things to worry about than global warming if that ever happens...

            Though funnily enough there's a proposal to do that (drop the sea level, using solar shades) in front of the UN at the moment. Colonel Santiago and Brother Lai are sponsoring it, but with Sister Miriam, CEO Morgan, and Deidre opposed to the idea, I doubt it'll pass.

    • Glad you asked... (Score:4, Informative)

      by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:27PM (#10525496) Homepage Journal
      How is this diffrent then toxic waste from nuclear plants being stored under ground.... if we continue storring all this wouldn't eventually run out of place to put it?

      A friend who worked in the Hazardous Waste disposal industry lamented the ignorance of many protesters who came out to his site and harrassed the workers. They didn't know the difference between Hazardous and Toxic waste. CO2 is not toxic. In high concentrations it can be harmful (depending on the lifeform), but that is the definition of Hazardous. Toxic means it does harm even in small concentrations.

      Example:

      1,000 gallons of horse urine if dumped on a field would probably kill the grass, but if dilluted and spread over time it would not.

      1 milligram of plutonium spread on a field would kill the grass, no matter how you dilluted it and grass wouldn't grow again for a long time.

      I'm sure I didn't explain this as well as he could have, but I hope you get the gist of it.

      • Re:Glad you asked... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Shadowlore (10860) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @02:00PM (#10526731) Journal
        1 milligram of plutonium spread on a field would kill the grass, no matter how you dilluted it and grass wouldn't grow again for a long time.

        I'm sure I didn't explain this as well as he could have, but I hope you get the gist of it.


        Your concept is correct, but your facts are horribly incorrect and it distracts from your point.

        WIkipedia [wikipedia.org] describes the myth of Pu toxicity you refer to.

        A Perspective on the Dangers of Plutonium [llnl.gov] also deals in reality on the effects and dangers of Plutonium. Plutonium's danger lies in it's radioactivity and a Mg spread out over a field of grass is all but inconsequential. Junkscience.com [junkscience.com] has a short blurb about the effects of low-level radioactivity that would suprise many who have been led to beleive that radioactivity is a large and deady threat.

        Toxic is a relative term, not an absolute, and there are multiple avenues of toxicity. Most laymen use the term to mean a substance's chemical toxicity.

        Plutonium's chemotoxicity is less than that of caffiene, acetiminophen, and so on. It's radiotoxicity is 1/200th that of Radium, a naturally occuring substance in soil.

        So basically, that horse urine is a greater threat to that field of grass than that Mg of plutonium.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#10525831) Journal
      How is this diffrent then toxic waste from nuclear plants being stored under ground....

      Much more hazardous, especially on an immediate basis.

      Liquid CO2, pushed down injection wells under pressure, occasionally springs a leak. When this happens you suddenly get a giant bubble of CO2 on (and in) the ground, displacing the oxygen and killing everybody and everything (even plants if it persists in the soil long enough) for miles around.

      This has happened when CO2 injection was used to pressurize oil wells to squeeze more oil out of the gound.

      A similar phenomenon happens naturally (though fortunately VERY rarely) when largely CO2 volcanic gasses vent into a deep still lake (such as in a volcanic crater). The gasses disolve, carbonating the lower waters. Then suddenly something disturbs the water and some of the carbonated water comes up and starts to bubble - rapidly "turning over" and boiling out the CO2 in the rest of the lake in a matter of minutes and releasing a similar ground-hugging toxic bubble.

      Think of a shaken soda can the size of Lake Tahoe.

      if we continue storring all this wouldn't eventually run out of place to put it?

      Nuclear, at least, takes up very little space and decays over years/centuries/millenia (depending on the isotope - generally the hotter the faster). Some of its components are also useful and can be separated out and put to work. Others can be "burned" in nuclear reactions into less hazardous and/or more useful material.

      That's not to say it's safe or good stuff. Some of it is horrid. But "running out of room" isn't the problem. (Keeping it in its room until it promises to be a good little kid and MEANS it is the problem.)
    • Fairly simple - Compressed (ie, liquid) CO2 can be used by industry to create other products. This would provide a fairly large source of raw, compressed CO2 can could further be refined and reused. The main problem with the current CO2 emissions is that, while they orginate from a point source, there's no viable way to contain the CO2 gas, collect it, and use it. It all goes to waste. The problem with nuclear power is that, although the waste is more or less contained, you can't do anything with the wa
  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:15PM (#10525280) Journal

    Finally an unlimited source of dry ice for Omaha Steaks. I'm going to buy some stock....

  • .... Duh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vrallis (33290) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:15PM (#10525294) Homepage
    I guess I'll be the first one to day it...

    You are going to combat the excessive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere by...producing more CO2? Even 'sequestered underground,' that isn't much of an option.
    • by Vrallis (33290)
      Say it, not day it...

      That's what I get for not doing a preview...
    • Re:.... Duh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:21PM (#10525376) Homepage
      The ammount of carbon in the world (excepting exceptions, pedants please piss off) doesn't change, it just gets put in different places.

      The best place for it is in the ground (as happens in this process, air->ground-as-liquid) rather than in the air (as happens when you burn fossil fuels, ground-as-coal->air).

      As long as it doesnt leach out and contaminate the area (not likley, and even if it does it's not serious) then this is exactly the right thing to do.
    • Re:.... Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955)
      "They would consume methane and oxygen and produce liquid carbon dioxide"

      Yep, doesn't sound 'zero emission' to me either.

      The other thing that caught me is that its producing liquid carbon dioxide? I thought carbon dioxide sublimates, as in goes from solid to gas with no liquid step. Or, if it has a liquid stage, its only under very specific conditions of temperature and pressure.

      I am not a chemist, but it doesn't sound right to me...
      • Re:.... Duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        This is the difference between being 'emmitted' and 'produced.' The idea, I think, is that it's not being spewed uncontrollably into the atmosphere.

      • Re:.... Duh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:32PM (#10525589) Homepage Journal
        >I thought carbon dioxide sublimates, as in goes from solid to gas with no liquid step. Or, if it has a liquid stage, its only under very specific conditions of temperature and pressure.

        It's pressure that makes the difference. At atmospheric pressure CO2 doesn't have a liquid phase. At higher pressures it does. In fact, the way you make dry ice (at least used to be) taking the pressure off some liquid CO2, letting some evaporate to chill the rest into a solid.

        The proposed power plants operate at high pressure including the exhaust stream. So all you need to do is cool the exhaust and you have liquid CO2.
    • Re:.... Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:24PM (#10525436)
      Uh, it was "sequestered underground" in the first place. Where do you think the fossil fuel came from?

      If those chambers are capable of holding oil and natural gas for millions of years, they are certainly capable of holding CO2 as well.

      In fact, newer drilling operations often inject CO2 into the well in order to pressurize the chamber and assist in extracting the last drops of oil from a dried out oil chamber.

      The idea of storing CO2 underground might sound crazy to you, but that's only because you've never done any serious research into the problem of carbon sequestration.

      I'm not certain that this is the best possible solution -- I think we need to be looking at nuclear fuels instead of better ways to control CO2 emissions from petroleum -- but it's not crazy.

    • Re:.... Duh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TAGmclaren (820485) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:25PM (#10525452)
      I know this isn't a popular option, but there is only one way left to combat CO2 emissions without winding the planet back to the stone age.

      It's nuclear power. There is no other technology available that has sufficient output, whilst not outputting CO2 that will put the Florida Quays any further underwater.

      The common argument in return is saving CO2 isn't much use if you make the planet uninhabitable due to reactors melting down. Well, the Chinese, with some help from the Germans, have very kindly solved this problem for us [wired.com]. Go check the link out - it's to wired.com - they have developed a nuclear reactor that doesn't go critical when the coolant system is switched off.

      We can save the planet, if we're willing to get over the Cold War era stereotypes.
  • Zero Emissions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Laivincolmo (778355) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:17PM (#10525326)
    I thought it had CO2 as an output...?
    • Re:Zero Emissions? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Politburo (640618)
      CO2 is not considered an air contaminant by many regulatory bodies. In New Jersey, where I do air permitting work, CO2 is considered a "Distillate of Air" and emissions of CO2 do not need to be considered. However, New Jersey recently announced to the regulated community that they will be removing CO2 from the definition of 'distillates of air'. This is for tracking purposes only. Permitees will be required to estimate and report CO2 emissions, but there will be no emission limits or other requirements for
  • Methane source? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Noehre (16438) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:17PM (#10525329)
    And where exactly is all of this methane going to come from?

    You can convert coal and oil to methane, but it isn't a clean process by any stretch of the imagination.

    I doubt existing natural gas supplies would last long under this proposed plan.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:19PM (#10525350) Homepage Journal
      Lots and lots of Hormel Chili.......
      *Ducks*
    • by milgr (726027) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:21PM (#10525396)
      Cows.

      Or perhaps pig manure, ala Mad Max.
    • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:23PM (#10525421)
      And where exactly is all of this methane going to come from?

      The article neglected to mention that beans were to be enforced as the staple diet for the whole planet. Initially every citizen will be expected to report daily to their nearest power plant for 'fuel' retrieval but it is envisaged that within a few years there will be sufficient levels of methane for direct extraction from the air in the major cities.

      It goes without saying a ban on all naked flames will be required in the major metropolitan areas.
    • Re:Methane source? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slackerboy (73121) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:23PM (#10525423)
      And where exactly is all of this methane going to come from?

      Well, if we're smart, we'd set up big anaerobic digestors as part of our wastewater treatment systems and capture the methane produced as a byproduct. Two birds, one stone. (Incidentally, a number of landfills already do this to generate onsite power rather than just flaring it off.)
    • Re:Methane source? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Omega1045 (584264)
      There are huge methane beds near coal, like in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. They have experienced a minor methane economic boom (seriously, no pun intended) in the last couple of years in the northeast corner of WY. Along with the methane wells, a lot of water is also produced from the wells. There has been discussion about injecting the water back into the well. However, it might be possible to inject the liquid CO2 there instead, and clean the water for use by population or industry.
    • by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:33PM (#10525594) Journal
      6 replies, 6 "crappy" posts.
    • Re:Methane source? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shadowlore (10860)
      And where exactly is all of this methane going to come from?


      Read the article and you see it isn't about methane so much, It's about nuclear and hydrogen, and airborne pies.


      Thermochemically, high-temperature nuclear plants could nightly make hydrogen on the scale needed to meet the demand of billions of consumers
  • by Usagi_yo (648836) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:18PM (#10525345)
    "They would consume methane and oxygen and produce liquid carbon dioxide, which could be sequestered underground." I'll guess we'll put it with the spent nuclear fuel rods.
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:19PM (#10525346) Homepage
    It produces less radioactive waste then coal-fired plants, but could we please sink more into solar energy sources? By some estimates, we'll begin the end of primary production in the persian gulf within the next decade. Venezualia and the Ukraine may stretch the world's oil supplies by a few years, but the sooner we can get alternatives up and running, the less it's gonna suck when we run out of the cheap oil.

    --
    It's all about the cash [slashdot.org]
    • by falser (11170)
      You can calm down. They're studying cheap ways to extract oil from the tar sands reserves in Alberta. It's going to happen. And there's more salvagable oil there than there is in all liquid oil in the entire planet. So it isn't going to be a problem for a long time, definitely not in the next decade.
  • by TimmyDee (713324) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:19PM (#10525348) Homepage Journal
    Sequestering CO2 underground is tantamount to screwing our kids over -- again! Burying liquid CO2 will only result in it's boiling at a later point in time, at which point those that live above it will suffocate (this has already happened in Africa, I believe) and we'll get a really killer (as in bad) positive feedback mechanism with respect to climate change. Warm that area, warm it's contained CO2. That CO2 then boils, enters the atmosphere, and adds to the problem.

    What we need is real solutions, not some half-assed band-aid effort. This is not a solution, but a cop-out.
  • by theurge14 (820596) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:19PM (#10525352)
    Have a safe planet and a smile.
  • by grunt107 (739510) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:20PM (#10525361)
    Why is it only areas that can be monopolized get wise energy choices like methanol? The reduced-pollution benefits of alcohol have been known for over 2 decades, yet no politician wants to force the issue on ethanol-burning transportation. Instead it's oil-powered hydrogen fuel cells.
    • "yet no politician wants to force the issue on ethanol-burning transportation"

      That's because ethanol takes a significant amount of energy to produce, often more than you get out when you burn it. Now, it may be possible, in areas where there's consistent sunshine, to use solar heating in ethanol production, but it will require a lot of non-ethanol energy from some souce to produce that ethanol.

      It also introduces new safety problems of its own. AFAIR ethanol burns invisibly, so it's not exactly an ideal fu
    • by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @01:08PM (#10526118) Homepage Journal
      No politician? [usda.gov] Granted, $7.2 million isn't a huge amount of money, but it was enough for Bush to bring it up during the debates. I think the fact that it would increase agriculture jobs is just as important as helping the environment.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:20PM (#10525368) Homepage Journal
    Typical approach, sate the demand rather than reduce it. Once cheap new power is on line everyone will put a heavier draw on it and we'll be back where we are. Oh and the methane magically appears out of nowhere (which is a good thing, because there are expected to be natural gas shortages this winter) and that CO2 sequestered underground* Sure would be a drag if we built up massive demand then finally ran out of energy, rather than weaning ourselves of it. Those rascals who live in self sufficient homes, they'll feel the full fury of our wrath when they look at us all smug while we're stranded and frozen. Grrrr!

    * Don't you just love that phrase? It's like 'solutions'. My waste solution is to sequester my used food wrappers and banana peels in the city dump. Hey, that does sound better than stinking up the environment with trash, doesn't it? OTOH the next time I serve jury duty, now that I know what 'sequestered' means I'll fight 'em tooth an nail.

  • Non convincing. (Score:3, Informative)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [l3gnaerif]> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:22PM (#10525411) Homepage
    "Work on such a system should start as soon as possible, since CO2 levels leaped up 2 ppm in the past two years as global warming becomes more of a reality."

    Please study statistics. Please realize that a sample over 2 years when Earth existed for billions of years don't mean a thing. Global warming may be a reality, as it may be caused by humans, or part of a natural cycle, or part of a natural cycle human activity accelerated.

    In my book, 2 ppm over 2 years, considering error and all, isn't a good reason to start producing these plants 'as soon as possible'.
  • Carbon sequestration (Score:5, Informative)

    by GangstaLean (102189) <gangstalean@NoSpAM.birdinthebush.org> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:24PM (#10525432) Homepage
    IGCC (integrated gas combined cycle) coal plants basically can be retrofitted to do this, at a lower cost than CH3, but the stable long-term options for carbon sequestration seem to be:
    1. CaO +CO2 -> CaCO3, conversion to limestone using lime. Problem, most people get lime from baking limestone.
    2. Capped oil well or deep aquifer storage in gaseous form.
    3. liquid "bubbles" that are thermodynamically unstable, sink them to the bottom of the ocean or other.

    The problem with all of these is you have to worry about the re-emergence of the CO2. Limestone seems like a good option because you just have to keep it dry. The downside is that limestone is heavy and even though the production is exothermic, producing lime has not been worked out. Pressurizing CO2 and storing it underground works, unless it leaks out. Then you have the same problem. Liquid bubbles are good if you have a very high pressure place to store them (the ocean), but the long term effect is acidification of the ocean and exhaustion of the carrying capacity (estimated to be around 1000-1500Gtons, we produce around 3Gtons/year).

    There aren't any easy answers. However long term, since coal is about 57% of current electricity in the U.S., it's not going away. What carbon sequestration will do is allow us to bridge the gap economically and technologically between high and low carbon fuel sources.

    I'm a big fan of wind, but there are still lots of hurdles.

  • by Mstrgeek (820200) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:24PM (#10525437)
    This is a well written PDF that was very educational dealing with Zero Emission Power Plants Using Solid Oxide Fuel Cells and Oxygen Transport Membranes

    http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/proceedings /01/vision21/v211-5.PDF

  • by k3v0 (592611) <{k3v0} {at} {k3v0.net}> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:25PM (#10525448) Homepage Journal
    Methanol [wikipedia.org]
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:25PM (#10525462) Homepage
    Storing CO2 emissions underground is not the same as zero emissions.

    Moving oil from underground to the surface is not the same as "producing" oil.

    And breeder reactors do not create more fuel than they consume.

    These may all be worthy activities, but let's try not to engage in magical thinking.

    As Barry Commoner observed: "Everything must go someplace. Everything is connected to everything else. There is no such thing as a free lunch."
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:29PM (#10525531)
    We are weakening pollution restrictions on power plants via changes to Clean Air Act made by the Bush administration. What is the motivation to invest in new clean tech? Very little.

    Not meaning to be gloomy, but industry will follow the path of least cost unless standards dictate otherwise. If not for "bleeding heart California liberals and environuts" you wouldn't even have the mileage standards we enjoy today in our vehicles - they were derided as "impossible" by the auto industry in the day.

    • by ttfkam (37064) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:52PM (#10525916) Homepage Journal
      We'd probably also have newer, more efficient nuclear power plants and decommissioning many fossil fuel plants if it weren't for "bleeding heart California liberals and environuts."

      Every group seems to take turns saving us and screwing us over.

      That said, you're absolutely right. Bush's Clean Air Act is like a line from Orwell's 1984 doublespeak.
  • Wrong Direction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sboyko (537649) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:31PM (#10525574) Homepage
    The current trend is toward smaller, more distributed power, not massive single units. Distributing power generation closer to where it is needed reduces transmission line losses. Putting all your generation in a few, large units also causes problems when one or two of them go down at the same time. Can you say brownout?

    The real solution is twofold: use more efficient powerplants (use waste heat from powerplants rather than dumping it into rivers and oceans), and more importantly, reduce consumption.
  • by RealAlaskan (576404) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:35PM (#10525636) Homepage Journal
    I think this is a lousy idea.

    Where I lived, [cityrating.com] a return to the long-term global average temperature [freeserve.co.uk] (about 5C warmer than now) would be great. It might turn North Africa into a greenbelt again [faithweb.com], too, just like it used to be. That would really help with the famines there! I know change is rough on everyone, but the poor dirt farmers would be a lot better off with an extra growing season. I really think that global warming is just too good to be true.

    How much CO2 did Mt. St. Helens vent last eruption? How does that compare to the CO2 from power generation? This link [radix.net] claims that human CO2 inputs are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the natural output of CO2, and that that tips the balance towards increasing CO2 levels.

    I really don't believe that idea, but just in case there is something to it, I say: go burn something. I'm sick of shivering!

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:37PM (#10525672)
    Supercompact, superfast, superpowerful

    [Rant]
    I am so very tired of overused adjectives, and "super" is the worst of them. Everything is super-something. Here we get three in a row, and another one further down in the summary paragraph. I don't even know what they mean anymore. How compact? How fast? How powerful compared to current units? This has gone on for years, and communicates nothing anymore. So this is my super-sized outburst.
    [/Rant]

  • by Shadowlore (10860) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:39PM (#10525685) Journal
    is contained in this quote:

    the current electricity grid would need to be replaced


    We are talking several hundred billion dollars, if not a trillion plus.

    Let me introduce a second, even bigger green energy machine, the Continental SuperGrid, to deliver the preferred energy carriers, electricity and hydrogen, in an integrated energy pipeline. The fundamental design involves wrapping a superconducting cable around a pipe pumping liquid hydrogen, which provides the cold needed to maintain superconductivity (Figure 3). The SuperGrid would not only transmit electricity but also store and distribute the bulk of the hydrogen ultimately used in fuel-cell vehicles and generators or redesigned internal-combustion engines.


    He then goes on to say it would take 100 years and 1 trillion dollars.

    In other words "aint' gonna happen".
  • Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tacokill (531275) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:43PM (#10525756)
    This is a fine idea, however, I can't help but wonder who will pay for "replacing" all of the existing plants.

    Do you have any idea how many power plants (not to mention co-gens) there are in the US? A shitload. I know because I sell to them.

    Great ideas come to fruition only if they can get funded. And we are talking a LOT of funding in this case. I mean, look at HRSG's (heat recovery steam generators). Those are here NOW -- and most plants can't "upgrade" because of the money.
  • by dcavanaugh (248349) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#10525838) Homepage
    There would be this huge supply of liquid CO2 stored underground. Nobody wants to fill the atmosphere with CO2, but at least some of it gets converted back to oxygen by plants. Won't we eventually have an oxygen shortage when too much oxygen has been used in the ZEPP combustion process and is now stored underground in the form of liquid CO2? Will some future generation need to find an energy-efficient way to release oxygen from CO2 or possibly water? Is this more difficult than the original problem? There must be a better way.
    • Nobody wants to fill the atmosphere with CO2, but at least some of it gets converted back to oxygen by plants. Won't we eventually have an oxygen shortage when too much oxygen has been used in the ZEPP combustion process and is now stored underground in the form of liquid CO2?

      No, because the oxygen comes from the biosphere (plants). If we reduce atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels, the plants in the biosphere (primarily in the ocean) will quickly replace the lost oxygen through photosynthesis.

      The

  • by The Man (684) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:50PM (#10525882) Homepage
    These guys are almost as bad as the oil companies. There might be global warming (or there might not), and if there is, it might be caused by excessive burning of coal (or it might be entirely natural, or it might be partly natural, we honestly don't have a clue), but whether there is or not, we know there's more carbon this year than there was last year! And a trend over a tiny fraction of the earth's existence, even in the complete absence of accurate records from any other part of its existence, is cause for immediate and drastic action! And lucky for you, we have the solution right here...why don't you step inside and we'll discuss it. How much would you be willing to pay?

    What a crock. This "solution" isn't a solution at all. If liquid CO2 in deep wells or the ground were a long-term sustainable storage mechanism for carbon, why is it that there is no such carbon storage existing naturally? Limestone, biomass, (living things, oil, gas), and oceans are all viable carbon storage media. I have no reason to believe the process described is a safe or effective way to store carbon so as to ensure indefinitely that it does not end up in the atmosphere.

    It would be much better to continue research on other power sources, some of which are already commercially viable, or continue research on making lime from something other than limestone. If all that sounds too hard, plant a fucking tree. It'll do more long-term good than trying to sell people a way to make CO2 some future generation's problem.

    There are only three kinds of energy available to us: solar, nuclear, and kinetic. The kinetic energy is that of the planet's motion through space; it includes a rotational component, its motion around the sun, the sun's motion around the galaxy, and the galaxy's motion through intergalactic space. We do not want to tap either of the first two (this would result in much greater climate change, since earth would turn more slowly and/or move closer to the sun), and the other two are impractical to exploit. Therefore we are left with either nuclear power or solar (light) energy and its immediate derivatives: wind, falling water, solar heat, and thermal differential. If we cannot find ways to make use of the five solar energy sources, or a way to make exploitation of nuclear energy safe, we will find our current living standards unsustainable within 200 years. This junk is just a temporary hack that would cost more in the long run than just finding cleaner energy sources.

  • sheesh (Score:5, Funny)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:52PM (#10525910)

    I keep "proposing" zero emmisions plants all the time, but as soon as I type the word "nuclear" around here, everyone gets all squirrly ...

  • by Jaywalk (94910) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:57PM (#10525960) Homepage
    Another alternate energy source that has been proposed by a UNH study [unh.edu] is to grow oily algae to make biodiesel. Part of that system proposes pumping carbon dioxide from industry through the algae to promote growth. An article [wired.com] in Wired magazine suggests that hybrid electric/diesel cars will result in far more fuel efficiency than the current round of hybrids. Finally, one more study [sciencedaily.com] suggests that plug-in bybrids (hybrids which can run solely on batteries, but which have gas engines that kick in when necessary) can cut the US consumption of fuel in half.

    I think this paints a complete picture of the future of transportation: a plug-in diesel/electric hybrid running on biodiesel. The batteries are charged from zero-polution electric plants which feed the carbon dioxide to algae farms which create the oil for biodiesel. The car runs most of the day on the electricity, but switches to diesel when the battery gets low. IMHO this is a far more realistic scenario than the fuel-cell which is getting a good deal more political attention than it deserves at thsi stage.

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @01:22PM (#10526271)
    There are some lakes in Africa that have carbon dioxide "sequestered" in them.


    Problem is, every so often, the carbon dioxide gets out. And lots of people die. Now, there are degassing projects which release the gas from the lakes into the atmosphere in a gradual controlled process.


    Degassing [umich.edu]

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @01:32PM (#10526399) Homepage
    Gas turbines are well understood. See this NASA tutorial, with an engine design simulator in Java. [nasa.gov]. Take a look at the exit temperatures and pressures you can get. Those are a long way from conditions that liquify CO2.

    This guy talks about 3000 RPM as a novel, high, shaft speed. Standard power generation turbines normally run at 3600 RPM, or sometimes 1800 RPM, to synch with the power grid. Modern microturbines [microturbine.com] run up to 96,000 RPM. (Yes, at last, Capstone Turbine isn't vaporware any more. You can actually buy a 60KW generator from them. This is an option worth considering if you need backup power for your data center.) Only 24% efficient, though. General Electric's most efficient gas turbines have reached 60%. (Big turbines are more efficient than little ones.)

    Turbine technology is up against materials limits. Vast amounts of effort (many billions of dollars) have been put into finding better materials for turbine blades, because this limits aircraft performance. Current blades are single crystals of metal, often with a ceramic coating. Pure ceramic blades have been made, but have tensile strength and brittleness problems. The turbine this guy is talking about requires materials way beyond anything that exists today.

    If it's thermodynamically possible to build a big machine of the type this guy is talking about, it should possible to build a little one right now.

  • by rben (542324) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @03:34PM (#10527736) Homepage

    It will take more than one idea or technology to solve this problem. Windmills, for instance, might be a complementary solution. Windmills take energy directly out of the atmosphere, which can help counteract the most direct effects of global warming. I believe I saw a post here on /. that said that if 95% of the world's energy was produced by windmills, we would be extracting more energy from the atmosphere then is being added by global warming.

    95% is probably an impractically large number. In reality, we need lots of cooperating elements in order to solve this problem. We need to immediately curtail the growth of carbon emissions and then work to reduce it. We need to increase the number and capacity of carbon sinks. New trees need to be planted to replace those being lost in South America. We need to understand what effect the regions of the ocean suffering from hypoxia are having on the oceans ability to absorb carbon dioxide. We need to find out what other problems are being caused by the change in the makeup of the atmosphere and work to fix them.

    The U.S. is going to have to step up and become a leader in environmental issues again. This could be the most important long term threat the world has ever had to deal with. The U.S. has been one of the largest producers of CO2 pollution. It's only recently that other large countries have been generating more. The U.S. risks becoming the scapegoat for the entire problem and the target of justifiable anger. Our actions here in the U.S. affect everyone in the world.

    I hope that the U.S. and other nations find the strength and will to rise above pettiness and cooperate to solve this problem. It certainly can't be done by any one nation alone.

  • photosynthesis (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bob_jenkins (144606) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @03:44PM (#10527890) Homepage Journal
    A few days ago I read on Slashdot about biodiesel produced by a very efficient algae [unh.edu]. One big stumbling block was that you needed CO2 in concentrations like you would get from the exhaust of a power plant to grow that algae at top rate. And looky here, today Slashdot is discussing a bunch of power plants putting out CO2 and they don't know what to do with it.

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