There's a Better Answer Than Electric Cars
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Leroy N. Soetoro
2018-06-09 16:53:59 UTC

Erich Sixt, chairman and chief executive officer of the Pullach, Germany-
based global car rental company that bears his family’s name, recently
described electric cars as a “costly political error” given their still
inferior range, long charging times and the huge investment necessary to
expand the charging infrastructure. It may have been a self-serving
statement (renters don’t like them), but he may also well be right: If a
paper published on Thursday correctly estimates the cost of extracting
carbon dioxide from the air, regulators could do better to concentrate on
that technology rather than on forcing vehicle electrification.

Carbon Engineering is a company co-founded by Harvard physicist David
Keith and funded, among others, by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Since
2015, the firm has been running a CO2 extraction plant in Canada, testing
out a technology that was until recently rejected as too costly. Keith and
his collaborators, who wrote the paper, have used an independent cost
assessment to calculate that using the process they developed allows the
capture of a metric ton of carbon dioxide at the cost of $94 to $232,
depending on variable costs such as the price of natural gas. (Since
energy is used in the process, about 0.9 tons of CO2 is actually removed
from the atmosphere with each ton captured).

That is far lower than previous estimates for the technology, ranging from
$550 to $1,300 per ton. The paper’s authors explain that the reduction
comes from simply using industrial equipment already available on the
market without much customization, a strategy they put in place at the
Canadian plant.

At Keith’s prices, investing in CO2 capture can be a better idea both for
consumers and for the environment than car electrification. According to
the International Energy Agency, increasing the number of electric cars on
the road from the current 2 million to 280 million by 2040 will only
displace 1 percent of the expected global CO2 emissions, largely because
other demand for carbon-based energy, including from planes and ships,
will push emissions up – and because electricity to power the giant
electric vehicle fleet won’t come entirely from clean sources. To achieve
this unimpressive result, carmakers have already pledged some $90 billion
in EV investment, and that’s not counting the cost of the ubiquitous
infrastructure necessary to give EVs mass appeal, the investment needed to
expand power generation and network capacity and the government subsidies
to electric car buyers.

Since late last year, Carbon Engineering’s plant has been producing fuel
from the CO2 it extracts by combining it with hydrogen. The fuel is
compatible with current internal combustion engines, so there’s no need
for carmakers to invest in completely different technology. Since burning
the synthetic fuel can only release as much CO2 as was used in its
production, the whole cycle is pretty much carbon-neutral.

Keith calculates that at scale, his technology can produce fuel at $1 a
liter ($3.79 per gallon) – significantly higher than the current wholesale
prices. There’s no question that going over from fossil fuel to the
synthetic liquids would need to be subsidized by environmentally-friendly
governments, but such subsidies have a distinct advantage over incentives
for EV owners and investment in parallel infrastructure: Nothing will need
to change for the enormous existing fleet of cars, about 1 billion of
them. Existing gas stations will be able to handle the new liquids just as
they do fossil fuel, too. And the new fuels could be used for those modes
of transportation that aren’t even close to being electrified, such as

Obviously, producing enough synthetic fuel to reduce emissions
significantly will require lots of extraction capacity. According to the
paper, building a plant capable of capturing 980,000 tons of CO2 a year
requires some $1.1 billion of capital investment, which could be brought
down to $780 million if construction begins at scale. To cut the CO2
emissions predicted by the IEA for 2040 by 1 percent, or by 357 million
tons, would require $284 billion at Keith’s estimated prices. That number,
however, is comparable with the total investment necessary to go over to
electric cars. Besides, there are other carbon capture technologies that
can be deployed directly at industrial facilities that use fossil fuels;
developing them at scale could lower the required investment.

None of this is to say electric cars shouldn’t be developed or sold. There
are plenty of true believers who will buy them, probably enough to support
some production and investment. It’s just that governments, which have
recently latched on to vehicle electrification as compulsory, and even
begun putting out competing dates for their future bans on the sales of
cars with internal combustion engines, may actually be wrong-headed.

There’s no pressing need for regulators to rush into embracing the
imperfect technology behind today’s EVs and pushing it on manufacturers
and consumers. Other technology exists that could use the regulatory
attention and at least some of the government funds going into EV
promotion. Promoting its development won’t necessarily pay off, but it
could well lead to better, less traumatic outcomes for an important
established industry and for a billion (and counting) people who use its
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JTEM is right
2018-06-10 04:19:15 UTC
At Keith’s prices, investing in CO2 capture can be a better idea both for
consumers and for the environment than car electrification.
There's two whopping huge problems here, and
by that I mean three problems. They are...

#1. The scheme is predicated on the idea that
CO2 is a problem.

Look. Even if we could warm the planet, we'd want
to. We're in an ice age. The glaciers are overdue.
"Colder" would murder off billions, while the
earth's temperature getting a little bit closer to
it's pre ice age norms is not a problem. It means
changes, yes, but "not getting warmer" means

#2. The real problem is an energy shortage, and
this crazy scheme actually exasperates it.

"Carbon Capture" doesn't help, it makes things
worse. You're throwing away energy we are rapidly
running out of, believing in this way you are going
to cool the planet during an ice age.

Right. Real brilliant, that.

#3. The 1% want their money.

"Carbon Taxes" and "Carbon Trading" were
invented by and for the rich. Together
they are the holy grail of greed: Charging
people for air! Over the top regressive,
the poor and working class will be shelling
out a percentage of every penny they earn
and spend to the 1%... and you are threatening
all of that.

There have been many schemes to "Combat"
this imaginary global warming by actually
addressing the stated problem & causes. Nobody
has ever been allowed to implement them. One
is to simply recolor all of our rooftops and
artificial surfaces to light, more reflective
colors. Another was to restore the emission
of the sulfur we've been scrubbing from our
fuels for 40 years or more. The sulfur gets
converted into aerosols, reflecting sunlight
back into space and preventing it from ever
reaching the earth's surface.

Oh! A third scheme is "Iron Fertilization"
of the ocean. The plan is to "Fertilize"
iron poor regions of the ocean, stimulating
plankton growth, which in turn will absorb
lots & lots of CO2. But, people trying this
have been barred from ports, warned off
by governments an even condemned by the U.N.

Yup, actually believing the "Global Warming"
narrative and taking action is not allowed.


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Bret Cahill
2018-06-10 04:53:01 UTC
Post by JTEM is right
At Keith’s prices, investing in CO2 capture can be a better idea both for
consumers and for the environment than car electrification.
There's two whopping huge problems here
For extraction interests there is just one.

They need to look for other jobs.