Feb 24, 2008

Idiotic Solutions to Non-Problems

By Alan Caruba

Since there is no threat from greenhouse emissions, especially carbon dioxide, the notion that The New York Times would devote space to a “solution” to CO2 that lacks even a modicum of common sense simply reaffirms this newspaper’s obsession with "global warming."

Viscount Monckton, a British scientist, has famously said that when confronted with a non-problem, the best thing to do is nothing.

On February 19, reporter Kenneth Chang, reported that “Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline.” This immediately raises the question of why this hasn’t already been done. The answer is (1) it would require an enormous amount of energy—the equivalent of the entire output of a nuclear plant and (2) that a CO2 conversion plant would cost at least $5 billion to build and would not be economically viable unless gasoline was selling for close to $5 a gallon.

According to the article, two scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kuble, Jr., have proposed the CO2 conversion concept they have dubbed “Green Freedom.” Apparently scientists are now taking classes in public relations.

As the article explained, “The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.”

According to Wikipedia, “Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, carbinol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical compound with chemical formula CH3OH (often abbreviated MeOH). It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable, poisonous, liquid with a distinctive odor that is somewhat milder and sweeter than ethanol.” (emphasis added)

In other words, it is moonshine. If it didn’t have the side effect of killing you, people would drink it

“Although they have not yet built a synthetic fuel factory, or even a small prototype, the scientists say it is all based on existing technology.” Vacationing on Mars is also based on existing technology. Buy your ticket today or maybe some carbon credits.

Until Planet Earth runs out of oil, the need for this “Green Freedom” energy source is totally unnecessary and, at this point, an idiotic exercise by two scientists who thirst for fame (and grants!) like the most common Hollywood starlet.

Thus we have an idiotic solution to a non-problem. Carbon Dioxide is essential to the existance of every bit of vegetation on Earth. It is not a pollutant and, at 0.038% of the Earth’s atmosphere, it represents zero risk of turning the planet into a dust bowl devoid of all life.

Since we are assailed daily with this kind of global warming related story, it is understandable why people think there's a problem. The problem is the fear mongers who keep telling people we’re running out of oil and that atmospheric CO2 is a danger.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, http://www.anxietycenter.com. His blog is at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Comment 1
As reported in the 2/20/08 Los Alamos Monitor, "Martin said the idea (Green Freedom) grew out of a military request for ideas on how to field a fuel-making system in the backcountry of Afghanistan, where the defense department was paying $1,000 a gallon for gas."

If the U.S. weren't "defending" in Afghanistan, DOD wouldn't be buying gas there. But, one might think that it is something that a national lab should be looking into.

Comment 2
For an argument that additional CO2 would be beneficial rather than detrimental, and that some warming is needed to get to what is called "Medieval Climate Optimum" of 1000 years ago, have a look at www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm

Anonymous said...

Leave it to the DOD to pay $1,000 a gallon for gas. I'm sure a local Afghani KBR/Halliburton gas station is supplying it to them.

Anonymous said...

Any estimates of what DOE pays per kiloton?

Anonymous said...

Don't let Al Gore see that global temperature link. He might decide we have a moral obligation to try to control sunspot activity.

Anonymous said...

This short piece is a wonderful example of how the Internet, in general, and the "blogosphere," in particular, contributes to the proliferation of nonsense disguised as science or critique of science.

Mr. Caruba uses both innuendo and outright falsehood to mock a research topic that is both interesting and, potentially, useful. No, this approach won't replace refining raw petroleum into gas and diesel, as long as crude is available. But for the future, it has some small-scale promise.

If you consider the overall credibility of posts to this (L:TROTS) blog, it's no surprise that other blogs are similarly uncredible -- incredible, even -- even if they do pay more attention to grammar and spelling.

Anonymous said...

Here at LANL, we (I mean our management, actually) specialize in implementing non-solutions to idiotic "problems."

Anonymous said...

Seems to me, with gas already over $3/gallon, that an alternative source would make sense, even if it's $5. This guy's talking as if we were in the $1/gallon days and $5 was unimaginable. Wake up!

When you consider the cost of replacing all the military's gas and jet-fuel vehicles with some magic "other" propulsion system, a gasoline-simulant, even at $5, is a darned good deal that lets you keep the existing vehicles functioning.

And if someone trashes the Middle East oil sources, you can bet $5 would be considered cheap.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me you guys are out of touch relative to AGW and displaying ignorance beyond "belief" well, that might not be true.

Anonymous said...

Another useless top-level post not obviously connected to the blog's stated purpose and focus. What gives? Sources dried up since Gus left?

Anonymous said...

Not being up to speed I have a beginners question.

The earth cycles climate because of a wobble in its orbit. Temperature cycles last around 9000years. We are on the upswing. Temperatures will go up no matter what we do, why bother since whatever we try to slow down will happen later anyway?

Anonymous said...

Pinky,
Why don't you identify yourself so that your environmental agenda can then be listened to in the right context? Clearly you have something to say by placing CO2 information on this "LANL Blog".

I think I know who you are but I will leave it up to you come out.

EM

Anonymous said...

9:10 - even ADCLES thinks this is a brilliant idea and is taking credit for it. Shows you how scientifically smart and saavy our "leadership" at LANL has become. I don't know what Wallace is thinking ... stupid is as a stupid does, Sir!

Anonymous said...

8:40 has it right. There is no need to mock this research. Inflamatory language like that is self-defeating. It usually means that the writer is an idiot. A cool headed, scientific argument would be more effective.

8:23 PM's link to the OISM's petition was interesting to me. Heretofore, based on several government publications, including the IPCC report and a NASA paper, I had thought that the vast majority of scientists and climate modelers believed that recent global warming has been caused by human-generated greenhouse gases. I'd be interested to see some expert advocates of human-caused global warming weigh in on this. What, exactly, is wrong with all the graphs shown in the OISM Petition web site?

Anonymous said...

OISM - What a joke when it comes to AGW. You can start here:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon-institute-of-science-and-malarkey/langswitch_lang/sw

Anonymous said...

And this guy is a real winner:

Christopher Monckton and Global Warming
While Monckton's educational background is in journalism, he has recently been touted by many think tanks as an expert in the field of global warming.

Christopher Monckton and the Heartland Institute
Monckton is listed as a "Global Warming" expert for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based freemarket think tank. The Heartland Institute frequently attacks the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. The Heartland Institute has received over $791,000 from oil-giant ExxonMobil since 1998.

The tobacco industry has also been a regular funder to the Heartland Institute, with at least $190,000 coming from Philip Morris since 1993. The Heartland Institute maintains a smoker's rights section on its website called "The Smoker's Lounge."

Christopher Monckton and the Science and Public Policy Institute
Monckton is listed as a "Chief Policy Advisor" for the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI). The SPPI was until recently managed under the name "Center for Science and Public Policy Institute" by another freemarket think tank called the Frontiers of Freedom.

The Frontiers of Freedom has received over $1 million in funding from oil-giant ExxonMobil.

Anonymous said...

This, this and even this seem to illustrate the attitudes of much of the Global Warming alarmist cabal.

Anonymous said...

Further discussion and presentation of "Green Freedom™ Synthetic Fuels and Chemicals", by Jeffrey Martin from LANL, can be found at; 2nd Annual Alternative Energy NOW, February 20-21, 2008, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, at:

www.upcomingevents.ctc.com/2ndAnnualAltEnergyNOW_agenda.html

Pinky and The Brain said...

Pinky,
Why don't you identify yourself so that your environmental agenda can then be listened to in the right context? Clearly you have something to say by placing CO2 information on this "LANL Blog".

I think I know who you are but I will leave it up to you come out.

EM


EM,
Since I did not indicate that this was a reader requested post, I thought perhaps you knew the person who requested it instead. I emailed your comment to them last night, to which they responded "No idea at all."

My suggestion would be to contact whoever you thought I was. It might be the person who sent me the article, and there is no other way to find out.
Pinky

Anonymous said...

One piece of global warming data that I haven't seen debunked, and I believe also shows up in Al Gore's materials, is that during the global warming and cooling cycles, the atmospheric CO2 content is stongly correlated with temperature, but the CO2 rise LAGS the temperature rise in each cycle, indicating tht if there is cause and effect, it is opposite from what the alarmists would have us believe. Anyone care to comment?

Anonymous said...

Patient zero was:

Synthetic Fuel Concept to Steal CO2 From Air

Los Alamos, N.M., February 12, 2008 -- Green Freedom™ for carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuel and chemical production.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a low-risk transformational concept, called Green Freedom™, for large-scale production of carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuels and organic chemicals from air and water.

Currently, the principal market for the Green Freedom production concept is fuel for vehicles and aircraft.

At the heart of the technology is a new process for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making it available for fuel production using a new form of electrochemical separation. By integrating this electrochemical process with existing technology, researchers have developed a new, practical approach to producing fuels and organic chemicals that permits continued use of existing industrial and transportation infrastructure. Fuel production is driven by carbon-neutral power.

"Our concept enhances U.S. energy and material security by reducing dependence on imported oil. Initial system and economic analyses indicate that the prices of Green Freedom commodities would be either comparable to the current market or competitive with those of other carbon-neutral, alternative technologies currently being considered," said F. Jeffrey Martin of the Laboratory´s Decisions Applications Division, principal investigator on the project.

Martin will be presenting a talk on the subject at the Alternative Energy NOW conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, February 20, 2008.

In addition to the new electrochemical separation process, the Green Freedom system can use existing cooling towers, such as those of nuclear power plants, with carbon-capture equipment that eliminates the need for additional structures to process large volumes of air. The primary environmental impact of the production facility is limited to the footprint of the plant. It uses non-hazardous materials for its feed and operation and has a small waste stream volume. In addition, unlike large-scale biofuel concepts, the Green Freedom system does not add pressure to agricultural capacity or use large tracts of land or farming resources for production.

The concept´s viability has been reviewed and verified by both industrial and semi-independent Los Alamos National Laboratory technical reviews. The next phase will demonstrate the new electrochemical process to prove the ability of the system to both capture carbon dioxide and pull it back out of solution. An industrial partnership consortium will be formed to commercialize the Green Freedom concept.

(www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuseaction/home.story/story_id12554)

Anonymous said...

27 April 2007
The lag between temperature and CO2. (Gore’s got it right.)

check it out here:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/the-lag-between-temp-and-co2/langswitch_lang/sw#more-430

Anonymous said...

If you really want to understand the history of the AGW debate (including carbon dioxide)listen to the following lecture.


http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/oreskes_lecture/

Anonymous said...

And a carbon dioxide post from realclimate.

26 June 2007
A Saturated Gassy Argument
Filed under: Greenhouse gases Climate Science— group @ 7:26 AM - () ()
A guest post by Spencer Weart, in collaboration with Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

The simple physics explanations for the greenhouse effect that you find on the internet are often quite wrong. These well-meaning errors can promote confusion about whether humanity is truly causing global warming by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Some people have been arguing that simple physics shows there is already so much CO2 in the air that its effect on infrared radiation is "saturated"— meaning that adding more gas can make scarcely any difference in how much radiation gets through the atmosphere, since all the radiation is already blocked. And besides, isn't water vapor already blocking all the infrared rays that CO2 ever would?


The arguments do sound good, so good that in fact they helped to suppress research on the greenhouse effect for half a century. In 1900, shortly after Svante Arrhenius published his pathbreaking argument that our use of fossil fuels will eventually warm the planet, another scientist, Knut Ångström, asked an assistant, Herr J. Koch, to do a simple experiment. He sent infrared radiation through a tube filled with carbon dioxide, containing somewhat less gas in total then would be found in a column of air reaching to the top of the atmosphere. That's not much, since the concentration in air is only a few hundred parts per million. Herr Koch did his experiments in a 30cm long tube, though 250cm would have been closer to the right length to use to represent the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Herr Koch reported that when he cut the amount of gas in the tube by one-third, the amount of radiation that got through scarcely changed. The American meteorological community was alerted to Ångström's result in a commentary appearing in the June, 1901 issue of Monthly Weather Review, which used the result to caution "geologists" against adhering to Arrhenius' wild ideas.

Still more persuasive to scientists of the day was the fact that water vapor, which is far more abundant in the air than carbon dioxide, also intercepts infrared radiation. In the infrared spectrum, the main bands where each gas blocked radiation overlapped one another. How could adding CO2 affect radiation in bands of the spectrum that H2O (not to mention CO2 itself) already made opaque? As these ideas spread, even scientists who had been enthusiastic about Arrhenius's work decided it was in error. Work on the question stagnated. If there was ever an "establishment" view about the greenhouse effect, it was confidence that the CO2 emitted by humans could not affect anything so grand as the Earth's climate.

Nobody was interested in thinking about the matter deeply enough to notice the flaw in the argument. The scientists were looking at warming from ground level, so to speak, asking about the radiation that reaches and leaves the surface of the Earth. Like Ångström, they tended to treat the atmosphere overhead as a unit, as if it were a single sheet of glass. (Thus the "greenhouse" analogy.) But this is not how global warming actually works.

What happens to infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface? As it moves up layer by layer through the atmosphere, some is stopped in each layer. To be specific: a molecule of carbon dioxide, water vapor or some other greenhouse gas absorbs a bit of energy from the radiation. The molecule may radiate the energy back out again in a random direction. Or it may transfer the energy into velocity in collisions with other air molecules, so that the layer of air where it sits gets warmer. The layer of air radiates some of the energy it has absorbed back toward the ground, and some upwards to higher layers. As you go higher, the atmosphere gets thinner and colder. Eventually the energy reaches a layer so thin that radiation can escape into space.

What happens if we add more carbon dioxide? In the layers so high and thin that much of the heat radiation from lower down slips through, adding more greenhouse gas molecules means the layer will absorb more of the rays. So the place from which most of the heat energy finally leaves the Earth will shift to higher layers. Those are colder layers, so they do not radiate heat as well. The planet as a whole is now taking in more energy than it radiates (which is in fact our current situation). As the higher levels radiate some of the excess downwards, all the lower levels down to the surface warm up. The imbalance must continue until the high levels get hot enough to radiate as much energy back out as the planet is receiving.

Any saturation at lower levels would not change this, since it is the layers from which radiation does escape that determine the planet's heat balance. The basic logic was neatly explained by John Tyndall back in 1862: "As a dam built across a river causes a local deepening of the stream, so our atmosphere, thrown as a barrier across the terrestrial [infrared] rays, produces a local heightening of the temperature at the Earth's surface."

Even a simple explanation can be hard to grasp in all its implications, and scientists only worked those out piecewise. First they had to understand that it was worth the trouble to think about carbon dioxide at all. Didn't the fact that water vapor thoroughly blocks infrared radiation mean that any changes in CO2 are meaningless? Again, the scientists of the day got caught in the trap of thinking of the atmosphere as a single slab. Although they knew that the higher you went, the drier the air got, they only considered the total water vapor in the column.

The breakthroughs that finally set the field back on the right track came from research during the 1940s. Military officers lavishly funded research on the high layers of the air where their bombers operated, layers traversed by the infrared radiation they might use to detect enemies. Theoretical analysis of absorption leaped forward, with results confirmed by laboratory studies using techniques orders of magnitude better than Ångström could deploy. The resulting developments stimulated new and clearer thinking about atmospheric radiation.

Among other things, the new studies showed that in the frigid and rarified upper atmosphere where the crucial infrared absorption takes place, the nature of the absorption is different from what scientists had assumed from the old sea-level measurements. Take a single molecule of CO2 or H2O. It will absorb light only in a set of specific wavelengths, which show up as thin dark lines in a spectrum. In a gas at sea-level temperature and pressure, the countless molecules colliding with one another at different velocities each absorb at slightly different wavelengths, so the lines are broadened and overlap to a considerable extent. Even at sea level pressure, the absorption is concentrated into discrete spikes, but the gaps between the spikes are fairly narrow and the "valleys" between the spikes are not terribly deep. (see Part II) None of this was known a century ago. With the primitive infrared instruments available in the early 20th century, scientists saw the absorption smeared out into wide bands. And they had no theory to suggest anything different.

Measurements done for the US Air Force drew scientists' attention to the details of the absorption, and especially at high altitudes. At low pressure the spikes become much more sharply defined, like a picket fence. There are gaps between the H2O lines where radiation can get through unless blocked by CO2 lines. Moreover, researchers had become acutely aware of how very dry the air gets at upper altitudes — indeed the stratosphere has scarcely any water vapor at all. By contrast, CO2 is well mixed all through the atmosphere, so as you look higher it becomes relatively more significant. The main points could have been understood already in the 1930s if scientists had looked at the greenhouse effect closely (in fact one physicist, E.O. Hulbert, did make a pretty good calculation, but the matter was of so little interest that nobody noticed.)

As we have seen, in the higher layers where radiation starts to slip through easily, adding some greenhouse gas must warm the Earth regardless of how the absorption works. The changes in the H2O and CO2 absorption lines with pressure and temperature only shift the layers where the main action takes place. You do need to take it all into account to make an exact calculation of the warming. In the 1950s, after good infrared data and digital computers became available, the physicist Gilbert Plass took time off from what seemed like more important research to work through lengthy calculations of the radiation balance, layer by layer in the atmosphere and point by point in the spectrum. He announced that adding CO2 really could cause a degree or so of global warming. Plass's calculations were too primitive to account for many important effects. (Heat energy moves up not only by radiation but by convection, some radiation is blocked not by gas but by clouds, etc.) But for the few scientists who paid attention, it was now clear that the question was worth studying. Decades more would pass before scientists began to give the public a clear explanation of what was really going on in these calculations, drawing attention to the high, cold layers of the atmosphere. Even today, many popularizers try to explain the greenhouse effect as if the atmosphere were a single sheet of glass.

In sum, the way radiation is absorbed only matters if you want to calculate the exact degree of warming — adding carbon dioxide will make the greenhouse effect stronger regardless of saturation in the lower atmosphere. But in fact, the Earth's atmosphere is not even close to being in a state of saturation. With the primitive techniques of his day, Ångström got a bad result, as explained in the Part II . Actually, it's not clear that he would have appreciated the significance of his result even if he had gotten the correct answer for the way absorption varies with CO2 amount. From his writing, it's a pretty good guess that he'd think a change of absorption of a percent or so upon doubling CO2 would be insignificant. In reality, that mere percent increase, when combined properly with the "thinning and cooling" argument, adds 4 Watts per square meter to the planets radiation balance for doubled CO2. That's only about a percent of the solar energy absorbed by the Earth, but it's a highly important percent to us! After all, a mere one percent change in the 280 Kelvin surface temperature of the Earth is 2.8 Kelvin (which is also 2.8 Celsius). And that's without even taking into account the radiative forcing from all those amplifying feedbacks, like those due to water vapor and ice-albedo.

In any event, modern measurements show that there is not nearly enough CO2 in the atmosphere to block most of the infrared radiation in the bands of the spectrum where the gas absorbs. That's even the case for water vapor in places where the air is very dry. (When night falls in a desert, the temperature can quickly drop from warm to freezing. Radiation from the surface escapes directly into space unless there are clouds to block it.)

So, if a skeptical friend hits you with the "saturation argument" against global warming, here's all you need to say: (a) You'd still get an increase in greenhouse warming even if the atmosphere were saturated, because it's the absorption in the thin upper atmosphere (which is unsaturated) that counts (b) It's not even true that the atmosphere is actually saturated with respect to absorption by CO2, (c) Water vapor doesn't overwhelm the effects of CO2 because there's little water vapor in the high, cold regions from which infrared escapes, and at the low pressures there water vapor absorption is like a leaky sieve, which would let a lot more radiation through were it not for CO2, and (d) These issues were satisfactorily addressed by physicists 50 years ago, and the necessary physics is included in all climate models.

Then you can heave a sigh, and wonder how much different the world would be today if these arguments were understood in the 1920's, as they could well have been if anybody had thought it important enough to think through.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of idiotic solutions to non-problems, this guy seems to work at a place that has LANL-quality managers.

http://whatcompanyisthis.blogspot.com/

Sort of reminds me of our old C-Division.

Anonymous said...

3:36 pm: TLDR. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Further information on this topic, Green Freedom™, and related matters, can be found at:

1) Green Freedom™ - A Concept For Producing Carbon-Neutral Synthetic Fuels And Chemicals, Dr. F. Jeffrey Martin, Senior Advisor, LANL, Dr. William L. Kubic, Jr., Technical Staff Member, LANL, November, 2007, LA-UR-07-7897.

(www.lanl.gov/news/newsbulletin/pdf/Green_Freedom_Overview.pdf)

2) Interview with Dr. F. Jeffrey Martin at, Living on Earth, Fuel From Thin Air, Week of February 22, 2008.

(www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=08-P13-00008&segmentID=2)

3) 2nd Annual Alternative Energy NOW, February 20-21, 2008, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, where Dr. F. Jeffrey Martin gave his talk [Feb. 20, 2008], with the title; Green Freedom™ Synthetic Fuels and Chemicals.

(www.upcomingevents.ctc.com; main page)

(www.upcomingevents.ctc.com/2ndAnnualAltEnergyNOW_agenda.html; agenda list)

Anonymous said...

JESUS GET A NEW TOPIC

Anonymous said...

2/26/08 7:35 wrote "http://whatcompanyisthis.blogspot.com/

Sort of reminds me of our old C-Division."

Old C-division? How about the current cluster-f*ck with our AD interferring in our business all the time, forcing us to take care of her unfunded mandates, and our group leader who is worried about his next drink with his buddies on Wednesdays, and how he can use his position to fund his own research in the hydrogen arena.

Anonymous said...

No worries, 9:50 PM, relax ... this is all part of the ADCLES "quality of life initiative"!!

Anonymous said...

Just wondering why, with well-considered and actual journalistically produced stories over the last couple of weeks in NY Times, Der Spiegel, NPR's Living on Earth, LANL THE REST OF THE STORY chose to post this blogger's rant, "Idiotic Solutions" on the subject? Looks like trolling to me.

See the original NY Times story, "Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline" that ran Feb 19, maybe, to get another take on it? There's also very interesting discussion on the NY Times' dot.earth blog by Andrew Revkin. see http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/ where it's been debated in at least two separate postings by Revkin.

Or is it just more thrilling to take the "we hate everything LANL does" perspective and throw it into the pot first?

Anonymous said...

Hey, 9:50 PM, it's all part of the new "Suck-Up/Move-Up" show now playing out at LANL. You can see it all around you.

Those who play it well are being financially rewarded very nicely by their friends in the PAD and AD positions.

"SUMU" is the future at LANL for anyone who wants to stay on and have a chance of advancing.

Anonymous said...

"Old C-division? How about the current cluster-f*ck with our AD interferring in our business all the time, forcing us to take care of her unfunded mandates, and our group leader who is worried about his next drink with his buddies on Wednesdays, and how he can use his position to fund his own research in the hydrogen arena."

..and don't forget the cronyism, nepotism and all the other "isms."

Peter said...

To be honest, I don't know what is this idiotic post doing on LANL: The Rest of the Story blog.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but the "Idiotic Solutions to Non-problems" post is perfect - after all, it is the theme-song for C-division!

Anonymous said...

What a darn minute! I thought LANL's "Green Freedom" was the nation's answer for turning CO2 into fuel. Who does this famous geneticist Craig Venter think he is stealing our show!


*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel - Thu Feb 28, 3:56 PM ET

MONTEREY, California (AFP) - A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing "fourth-generation fuel" project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

"We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy," Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page.

"We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock."

Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter.

Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter.

"We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future," Venter said. "We are limited here only by our imagination."

His team is using synthetic chromosomes to modify organisms that already exist, not making new life, he said. Organisms already exist that produce octane, but not in amounts needed to be a fuel supply.

Anonymous said...

The TED 2008 conference... where Venter was joined by such keen scientific minds as Bob Geldof, Amy Tan, and Isaac Mizrahi. A tough peer-reviewed forum if there ever was one.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 1:24 PM, stop being so Old School.

It's not *WHAT* you know, it's *WHO* you know that matters these days.

All the really important people show up at TED each year to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. That's all that counts in modern US society.