Why Solar: Unburden the environment from fossil fuels side effects

Canada, and Alberta’s, implementation of a carbon tax brings to question the efficacy of such a political move. The intent is to force the countries citizens into reducing the carbon foot print of the nation. Given the current environmental concerns facing the earth, it seems a noble quest, one devised to gain stature amongst the leadership of the globe, but does it in fact accomplish anything other than to substantially increase the fiscal burden on the proletariat?

If the vehicle dealerships were full of electric cars, (EV’s as they are referred to by those in the know), and photovoltaic outlets where as common as liquor stores, then maybe a tax would serve the purpose to convince the laggards to catch up with the herd and lower their carbon footprint. But alas, it is not so, at least not in present Canadian society. Even if you want an EV there is a long waiting list, and photovoltaic suppliers are still so little in number as to be unnoticeable.

With 81.4% of modern civilizations electrical demand being supplied by fossil fuels, it will be a while before renewable energy sources become a mainstream technology. As we adopt electrical modes of transport, the energy to operate them, will add to the load on the electrical grid; electrical vehicles adoption at this stage will simply exchanging one form of hydrocarbon fuels for another.

Like it or not, we have a distance to traverse before we finish addressing the short comings of our current energy source. Bridging technologies to cleanup or recycle the current fossil fuel emissions civilization produces must be actively pursued and politically encouraged. It is intriguing to monitor the massive quantity of advances, innovation, and invention needed to transition from carbon to solar.

To this end, scientists at the Ohio State University have recently released two papers discussing technologies designed to effect this conversion. The papers describe a pollution free process which transforms shale gas into commodities such as methanol and gasoline, all while consuming carbon dioxide. Operated appropriately, the process requires carbon dioxide additions from outside sources. They also detail in their papers a discovery which lengthens the working life of the particles that expedite the chemical reaction of the process. This advance permits the reaction to produce electricity on a commercially viable scale.

“Chemically Looping” technology described by Professor Liang-Shih Fan, the lead researcher, uses metal oxide particles to cut the cost of producing synthesis gas by an estimated 50% compared to current technologies. Syngas is the basic feedstock for the production of methanol, gasoline, diesel, lubricants, and materials such as plastics, polymers, or carbon fibre.

Syngas can be derived from natural gas, or ambient air. Blue fuels, which are created with recycled CO2 scrubbed from the atmosphere, entail a serious focus of exploration by researchers in Germany, Finland, and Australia.

Bridging technologies necessitate financial feasibility, if not crazy profits; even then it is going to take a protracted interval before we unburden the environment from fossil fuels side effects.

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca.

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