How to Make Recyclable Plastics Out of CO2 to Slow Climate Change

Yves here. Perhaps readers will tell me I am wrong, but I find the claims made in this article about CO2 to plastic to be fantastic. At best, they omit the full life cycle energy and possible/probable CO2 cost of fabricating and disposing of these product. The author actually praises disposable cups, when we need societally to wean ourselves off them. She also appears not to comprehend that if a cup made with CO2 plastics that is also biodegradable would not sequester the CO2 (as cement incorporating CO2 arguably would) but would release it back into the environment.

By Ann Leslie Davis, an award-winning freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Grist, Mother Jones, Science News, Modern Farmer, and many other publications. She covers biotech and climate issues, focusing on plastics and emerging carbon dioxide removal methods. An earlier version of this article was published by Science News. This adaptation was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute

It’s morning, and you wake up on a comfortable foam mattress made partly from greenhouse gas. You pull on a T-shirt and sneakers manufactured using carbon dioxide pulled from factory emissions. After a good run, you stop for a cup of joe and guiltlessly toss the plastic cup in the trash, confident it will fully biodegrade into harmless organic materials. At home, you squeeze shampoo from a bottle that has lived many lifetimes, then slip into a dress fashioned from smokestack emissions. You head to work with a smile, knowing your morning routine has made Earth’s atmosphere a teeny bit cleaner.

Sound like a dream? Hardly. These products are already on the marketaround the world. And others are in the process of being developed. They’re part of a growing effort by academia and industry to reduce the damage caused by centuries of human activity that has sent CO2 and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

The need for action is urgent. In its 2022 report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, stated that rising temperatures have already caused irreversible damage to the planet and increased human death and disease.

Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 emitted continues to grow. In 2023, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that if current policy and growth trends continue, annual global CO2 emissions could increase from more than 35 billion metric tons in 2022 to 41 billion metric tons by 2050.

Capturing—and Using—Carbon

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is a climate mitigation strategy with “considerable” potential, according to the IPCC, which released its first report on the technology in 2005. CCS traps CO2 from smokestacks or ambient air and pumps it underground for permanent sequestration; controversially, the fossil fuel industry has also used this technology to pump more oil out of reservoirs.

As of 2023, almost 40 CCS facilities operate worldwide, with about 225 more in development, according to Statista. The Global CCS Institutereports that, in 2022, the total annual capacity of all current and planned projects was estimated at 244 million metric tons. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $3.5 billion in funding for four U.S. direct air capture facilities.

But rather than just storing it, the captured carbon could be used to make things. In 2022, for the first time, the IPCC added carbon capture and utilization, or CCU, to its list of options for drawing down atmospheric carbon. CCU captures CO2 and incorporates it into carbon-containing products like cement, jet fuel, and the raw materials used for making plastics.

CCU could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20 billion metric tons in 2050—more than half of the world’s global emissions today, the IPCC estimates.

Such recognition was a significant victory for a movement that has struggled to emerge from the shadow of its more established cousin, CCS, says chemist and global CCU expert Peter Styring of the University of Sheffield in England, during a 2022 interview. He adds that many CCU-related companies are springing up, collaborating with each other and with more established companies, and working across borders. London-based consumer goods giant Unilever, for example, partnered with companies from the United States and India to create the first laundry detergent made from industrial emissions.

The potential of CCU is “enormous,” both in terms of its volume and monetary prospects, said mechanical engineer Volker Sick at an April 2022 conference in Brussels following the IPCC report that first included CCU as a climate change strategy. Sick, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, directs the Global CO2 Initiative, which promotes CCU as a mainstream climate solution. “We’re not talking about something that’s nice to do but doesn’t move the needle,” he added. “It moves the needle in many, many aspects.”

The Plastics Paradox

The use of carbon dioxide in products is not new. CO2 makes soda fizzy, keeps foods frozen (as dry ice), and converts ammonia to urea for fertilizer. What’s new is the focus on creating products with CO2 as a strategy to slow climate change. According to Lux Research, a Boston-based research and advisory firm, the CCU market, estimated at nearly $2 billion in 2020, could mushroom to $550 billion by 2040.

Much of this market is driven by adding CO2 to cement (which can improve its strength and elasticity) and to jet fuel—two moves that can lower both industries’ large carbon footprints. CO2-to-plastics is a niche market today, but the field aims to battle two crises: climate change and plastic pollution.

Plastics are made from fossil fuels, a mix of hydrocarbons formed by the remains of ancient organisms. Most plastics are produced by refining crude oil, which is then broken down into smaller molecules through a process called cracking. These smaller molecules, known as monomers, are the building blocks of polymers. Monomers such as ethylene, propylene, styrene, and others are linked together to form plastics such as polyethylene (detergent bottles, toys, rigid pipes), polypropylene (water bottles, luggage, car parts), and polystyrene (plastic cutlery, CD cases, Styrofoam).

But making plastics from fossil fuels is a carbon catastrophe. Each step in the life cycle of plastics—extraction, transport, manufacture, and disposal—emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, according to the Center for International Environmental Law, a nonprofit law firm with offices in Geneva and Washington, D.C. These emissions alone—more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2019—are enough to threaten global climate targets.

And the numbers are about to get much worse. A 2018 report by the Paris-based intergovernmental International Energy Agency projected that global demand for plastics will increase from about 400 million metric tons in 2020 to nearly 600 million by 2050. Future demand is expected to be concentrated in developing countries and vastly outstrip global recycling efforts.

Plastics are a severe environmental crisis, from fossil fuel use to their buildup in landfills and oceans. But we’re a society addicted to plastic and all it gives us—cell phones, computers, comfy Crocs. Is there a way to have our (plastic-wrapped) cake and eat it too?

Yes, Sick says. First, cap the oil wells. Next, make plastics from aboveground carbon. Today, there are products made of between 20 and 40 percent CO2. Finally, he says, build a circular economy that reduces resource use, reuses products, and then recycles them into other new products.

“Not only can we eliminate the fossil carbon as a source so that we don’t add to the aboveground carbon budget, but in the process, we can also rethink how we make plastics,” Sick says. He suggests that plastics be specifically designed “to live very, very long so that they don’t have to be replaced… or that they decompose in a benign manner.”

However, creating plastics from thin air is not easy. CO2 needs to be extracted from the atmosphere or smokestacks, for example, using specialized equipment. It must often be compressed into liquid form and transported, generally through pipelines. Finally, to meet the overall goal of reducing the amount of carbon in the air, the chemical reaction that turns CO2 into the building blocks of plastics must be run with as little extra energy as possible. Keeping energy use low is a unique challenge when dealing with the carbon dioxide molecule.

A Bond That’s Hard to Break

There’s a reason that carbon dioxide is such a potent greenhouse gas. It is incredibly stable and can linger in the atmosphere for 300 to 1,000 years. That stability makes CO2 hard to break apart and add to other chemicals. Lots of energy is typically needed to ensure that chemical reaction.

“This is the fundamental energy problem of CO2,” says chemist Ian Tonks of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in a July 2022 interview. “Energy is necessary to fix CO2 to plastics. We’re trying to find that energy in creative ways.”

Catalysts offer a possible answer. These substances can increase the rate of a chemical reaction and thus reduce the need for energy. Scientists in the CO2-to-plastics field have spent more than a decade searching for catalysts that can work at close to room temperature and pressure and coax CO2 to form a new chemical identity. These efforts fall into two broad categories: chemical and biological conversion.

First Attempts

Early experiments focused on adding CO2 to highly reactive monomers like epoxides to facilitate the necessary chemical reaction. Epoxides are three-membered rings composed of one oxygen atom and two carbon atoms. Like a spring under tension, they can easily pop open.

In the early 2000s, industrial chemist Christoph Gürtler and chemist Walter Leitner of RWTH Aachen University in Germany found a zinc catalyst that allowed them to break open the epoxide ring of polypropylene oxide and combine it with CO2. Following the reaction, the CO2 was joined permanently to the polypropylene molecule and was no longer in gas form—something that is true of all CO2-to-plastic reactions.

Their work resulted in one of the first commercial CO2 products—a polyurethane foam containing 20 percent captured CO2. As of 2022, the German company Covestro, where Gürtler now works, sells 5,000 metric tons of CO2-based polyol annually in the form of mattresses, car interiors, building insulation, and sports flooring.

Other research has focused on other monomers to expand the variety of CO2-based plastics. Butadiene is a hydrocarbon monomer that can be used to make polyester for clothing, carpets, adhesives, and other products.

In 2020, chemist James Eagan at the University of Akron in Ohio mixed butadiene and CO2 with a series of catalysts developed at Stanford University. Eagan hoped to create a carbon-negative polyester, meaning it has a net effect of removing CO2 from the atmosphere rather than adding it. When he analyzed the contents of one vial, he discovered he had created something even better: a polyester made with 29 percent CO2 that degrades in high-pH water into organic materials.

“Chemistry is like cooking,” Eagan says during an interview. “We took chocolate chips, flour, eggs, butter, mixed them up, and instead of getting cookies, we opened the oven and found a chicken potpie.”

Eagan’s invention has immediate applications in the recycling industry, where machines can often get gummed up from the nondegradable adhesives used in packaging, soda bottle labels, and other products. An adhesive that easily breaks down may improve the efficiency of recycling facilities.

Tonks, described by Eagan as a friendly competitor, took Eagan’s patented process a step further. By putting Eagan’s product through one more reaction, Tonks made the polymer fully degradable back to reusable CO2—a circular carbon economy goal. Tonks created a startup in 2022 called LoopCO2 to produce a variety of biodegradable plastics.

Microbial Help

Researchers have also harnessed microbes to help turn carbon dioxide into useful materials, including dress fabric. Some of the planet’s oldest living microbes emerged at a time when Earth’s atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide. Known as acetogens and methanogens, the microbes developed simple metabolic pathways that use enzyme catalysts to convert CO2 and carbon monoxide into organic molecules. In the last decade, researchers have studied the microbes’ potential to remove CO2 and CO from the atmosphere or industrial emissions and turn them into valuable products.

LanzaTech, based in Skokie, Illinois, partners with steel plants in China, India, and Belgium to turn industrial emissions into ethanol using the acetogenic bacterium Clostridium autoethanogenum. The first company to achieve the conversion of waste gases to ethanol on an industrial scale, LanzaTech designed bacteria-filled bioreactors to fit onto existing plant facilities. Ethanol, a valuable plastic precursor, goes through two more steps to become polyester. In 2021, the clothing company Zara announced a new line of dresses made from LanzaTech’s CO2-based fabrics.

In 2020, steel production emitted almost 2 metric tons of CO2 for every 1 metric ton of steel produced. By contrast, a life cycle assessment study found that LanzaTech’s ethanol production process lowered greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent compared with ethanol made from fossil fuels.

In February 2022, researchers from LanzaTech, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and other institutions reported in Nature Biotechnology that they had genetically modified the Clostridium bacterium to produce acetone and isopropanol, two other fossil fuel-based industrial chemicals. The spent bacteria is used as animal feed or biochar, a carbon dioxide removal method that stores carbon in the soil for centuries.

Other researchers are skipping living microbes and just using their catalysts. More than a decade ago, chemist Charles Dismukes of Rutgers University began looking at acetogens and methanogens to capture and use atmospheric carbon. He was intrigued by their ability to release energy when making carbon building blocks from CO2, a reaction that usually requires energy. He and his team focused on the bacteria’s nickel phosphide catalysts, which are responsible for the energy-releasing carbon reaction.

Dismukes and colleagues developed six electrocatalysts to make monomers at room temperature and pressure using only CO2, water, and electricity. The energy­-releasing pathway of the nickel phosphide catalysts “lowers the required voltage to run the reaction, which lowers the energy consumption of the process and improves the carbon footprint,” says Karin Calvinho, a former student of Dismukes. Calvinho is now the chief technical officer at RenewCO2, a startup that began to commercialize Dismukes’ innovations in 2018. RenewCO2 plans to obtain CO2 from biomass, industrial emissions, or direct air capture, then sell its monomers to companies wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, Calvinho says during an interview.

Barriers to Change

Yet researchers and companies face challenges in scaling up carbon capture and reuse. Some barriers lurk in the language of regulations written before CCU existed. An example is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program to provide tax credits and other incentives to biofuel companies. The program is geared toward plant-based fuels like corn and sugar­cane. LanzaTech’s approach for producing jet fuel doesn’t qualify for credits because bacteria are not plants.

Other barriers are more fundamental. Styring points to the long-standing practice of fossil fuel subsidies, which in 2021 topped $440 billionworldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, global government subsidies to the oil and gas industry keep fossil fuel prices artificially low, making it hard for renewables to compete. Styring advocates shifting those subsidies toward renewables.

“We try to work on the principle that we recycle carbon and create a circular economy,” he says. “But current legislation is set up to perpetuate a linear economy.”

The happy morning routine that makes the world carbon-cleaner is theoretically possible. It’s just not the way the world works yet. Getting to that circular economy, where the amount of carbon aboveground is finite and controlled in a never-ending loop of use and reuse, will require change on multiple fronts. Government policy and investment, corporate practices, technological development, and human behavior would need to align effectively and quickly in the interests of the planet.

In the meantime, researchers continue their work on the carbon dioxide molecule.

“I try to plan for the worst-case scenario,” Eagan said during an interview. “If legislation is never in place to curb emissions, how do we operate within our capitalist system to generate value in a renewable and responsible way? At the end of the day, we will need new chemistry.”

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  1. Cade Johnson

    Regarding the short-cycling of CO2 – making things from CO2 that are soon burned or decomposed to return the CO2 to the atmosphere: it is true that we have an unimaginably huge 1000 gigatonnes of excess CO2 in circulation from our rampant fossil fuel burning, and that even at net-zero, all that CO2 will still be in circulation and affecting the climate. However, there can still be a benefit at this point in history from taking some of the CO2 out of the atmosphere even for a decade or two. By mid-century, we have to be able to remove at the gigatonne-per-year rate or we can probably kiss civilization goodbye. Short term fixes until we can bring large-scale removal processes online, are not to be dismissed too quickly.

    But the concept of CCS – emission point capture – that is misguided on its face. If we expend our effort to preserve bad processes by partially curtailing their tailpipe emissions, at the end of the day we have perpetuated bad processes and inevitably inherit their leakage – the evaded capture which continues. That cannot get us to zero emission, ever. And to be clear, “bad” means fossil-fuel-reliant. Power plants that implement CCS are PRESERVING fossil fuel infrastructure – of course that will come with additional carbon in the ecosystem.

    However, it is also true that we have to consider the whole process. Sequestering a tonne of CO2 by using the energy generated from emitting two tonnes of CO2 is stupid, no matter how well the connection is concealed. Sometimes our learning process is going to cost some mis-spent emissions, but that phase is not stupid in itself – if it leads to sustainable CO2 capture down the road.

    I’ll end by mentioning that there is much weeping and disclaiming that CO2 removal and conversion into useful products is too energy-intensive and could never be done – and this is a silly assertion with no merit. Consider a blade of grass. All day, it converts CO2 and water into cellulose (a polymer!) using the sunlight that falls upon it, for free. We do not need to preserve fossil fuel use, we need to convert to biomass use – for our fuels, our materials, and for removing the excess CO2 we have released.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      Yeah. We’ll do anything – anything -anything – except change our polluting lifestyles i.e. have less of our mostly ‘western’ privileges. Most of the population of the planet don’t own/operate/use: multiple (or even one) TV’s+cars+smartphones+computers+digital cameras+central heating+air conditioning+ multi-bedroom houses+bottle-of-good-malt per day/week+throw-away textiles and other goods+power on tap+always available hot and cold running water+comprehensive education+social security+insurance policies+healthcare+ multi-lane highways etc. – and certainly not all at once, as we do. Some of these of course, like healthcare, education and social security are needed by all – the rest – not so much, (and arguably we are healthier without most of them).

      Time we assessed our privilege.

      1. aaron

        Might I suggest that it has nothing to do with “privilege”, or a lack of desire to fix the problem from the general population, and everything to do with the outsized say our bourgeoisie (who gets a huge amount of money from fossil fuel use) has in determining what we produce, when, and why. There is not actually a reason to think that anyone in “the West” has to actually live a worse life, when there is already so much waste built into everything precisely because that is what preserves a tiny minority’s profits (and not because it makes our life even marginally better–can you, for example, imagine how much more pleasant life in the US might be with fast, widely available public transit, at a fraction of our current transportation CO2 budget?).

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          I agree. ” Privilege”? What “privilege”?

          The plutons, the kleptons, the oligarchs, and their well paid supporters and assistants and experts engineered the 24/7 Sensurround Matrix of Total Waste we are all forced to live in.
          They have all the “privilege” and we get all the global warming and all the climate d’chaos decay.

          Their physical elimination from physical existence may be a necessary first condition for being able to craft a less waste-based civilization over their dead bodies.

    2. James P McFadden

      As I wrote in a comment a few days ago (nakedcapitalism article on geoengineering), the best and cheapest short term solution to reduce CO2 is carbon sequestration by creating a living soil via regenerative farming (or regenerative agriculture). It has the added benefits of requiring less water for agriculture, less fertilizer/pesticides, doesn’t pollute to ground water, and does away with GMO monocrops that are susceptible to disease. Soil has the potential to be a massive carbon sink. The problem with this environmental solution is it would hurt agribusiness – and agribusiness is the control mechanism to keep us unwashed masses in line. Food controlled by the ruling class has been used by the US in the global south to force, or attempt to force in the case of Cuba and Venezuela, compliance with neoliberal policies that maximize profits. The ruling class wants to maintain that possibility of control here — which is why it is not discussed. Look at investment in Big Ag — who is the biggest investor in agriculture — Bill Gates. Monopoly farm consolidation is underway, and has been for some time. It is just another way to extract rents using a commodity we can’t do without. Unless we have farming and land reform here soon – those chickens will come home to roost. And when people start demanding changes that the ruling class is unwilling to accommodate, food will likely be a weapon here too.

      1. thousand points of green

        If you live in a real house with a real yard around it, you may be able to grow some food outside the CancerJuice Agribiz System. Even if you live in a vertical urban gulag ( ” apartment house”), if you have access to community-gardenable land or even a dacha-equivalent, you can still grow some food outside the Agribiz System.

        The food you can grow is the food Big Agribiz can’t use against you. Freedom fruit. Freedom greens.

        They are doing a bit of that in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit may be pointing the way to a survival-viable future, if there is one.
        and some images for url diving . . .;_ylt=AwrFedVtSYZlU1knq0ZXNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=urban+farming+detroit+image&fr=sfp

  2. The Rev Kev

    More end of the dream stuff. Technology will save us but more importantly, we will not really have to change the way that we live. Driving season will still be with us. In twenty year times this article will read like a bad joke and we are all of are going to have to change the way we live as our climate goes sideways whether we like it or not. Plastics? Look at this section-

    ‘A 2018 report by the Paris-based intergovernmental International Energy Agency projected that global demand for plastics will increase from about 400 million metric tons in 2020 to nearly 600 million by 2050. Future demand is expected to be concentrated in developing countries and vastly outstrip global recycling efforts.’

    Does that sound like we are trying to cut back? The truth is that we are going to have to get plastics use way, way down to what it was in the 1940s. Yeah, maybe make plastic out of recycled plastics but we will have to virtually ban all new plastics being made. And CO2? We are going to have to reduce that dramatically though it is too late to stop the worse of the effects that are already baked into the cake. Prepare for a world without ice. Not in the mountains, not in the Himalayas and not at the polar caps and at the rate we are going we may even see it in our lifetime. Will our leaders change course? Of course not. Washington DC could be permanently flooded forcing the government to move the Capital to Des Moines and still they would stop any efforts to tackle climate change. The idea in this article are simply not going to cut it and that is the truth.

    1. Piotr Berman

      One would need to know more to consider possible solution. First, is the growth in the consumption of plastics mainly in products, or in packaging? Concerning packaging, I minimized my use of plastic bags, occasionally I use a free bad for compostable trash (it is wet and heavy, separating saves trash bags, I know no convenient method for actually adding to useful compost), but I get a lot of packaging plastics anyway. Is paper and carton better for CO2 balance than plastics? Would CO2 balance be reduced by minimizing packaged air?

      With products, one can consider alternatives like metals, and complex issues of durability. Perhaps there could be a tax on goods with much more durable alternatives… but hard to measure. For example, bicycle lights used to have metal mounting that required a tool, but was durable, and nowadays the mounting is replaced with a flexible rubbery band that breaks after a while, with no clear way to replace it. I guess that there are many products with unnecessarily reduced durability (presumably, good for business, if not for the planet).

      Another puzzle: is it better to burn trash, or to create mounds (alternatively, fill unused quarries and open-pit mines) in which carbon-rich trash would be sequestered? May depend on a type of trash…

  3. i just dont like the gravy

    I have to admit this is a neat idea, although I’m more hopeful of bioplastics like those developed from hemp.

    Similar to your points in the article’s preface Yves, this still just seems like wishful thinking for the “consumer treadmill” to keep going. It’s not like if we were able to make plastics from CO2 we wouldn’t just use it as an excuse to continue business as usual.

    1. thousand points of green

      The plastic shells of cell phones and other plastic-exoskeleton-things could be made of shaped or bent bamboo. Why use plastic at all?

      Or am I wrong?

  4. GramSci

    Hmm. Don’t they have to get hydrogen in order to synthesize hydrocarbons? Obviously they can’t get it from hydrocarbons without releasing CO2, so electrolysis?? But won’t that hydrogen be needed for our masters’ private jets?

  5. PlutoniumKun

    I’m a little skeptical that these systems could be more efficient than the old fashioned way of turning CO2 into useable products – plants. But if it works, it works.

    An important point often overlooked in the narrative over reducing emissions and renewables, is that we have already arrived at a world of super dirt cheap renewable energy, far lower cost than even the most optimistic forecasts of a few years ago. The ‘problem’ is that it the limitations are temporal, not capacity constraints (i.e. you only get it at certain times). For the past 5 days, for example, fully 20% of Irish wind power capacity has had to be held off-line – more than a GW of power – because there is so much renewable energy online due to the mild windy weather. Fossil fuel plants are still producing as they are are necessary for spinning capacity and because they are inefficient if shut down entirely until the wind stops. So for days now there has been a consistent 1 GW of extremely cheap power available which has been switched off. Processes like producing hydrogen or ammonia or other base chemical products would be ideal for using this ‘spare’ energy, which is increasing rapidly. The main problem is getting the capacity online that can be efficiently used only when there is a surplus in the system – this is usually only viable if you can use existing plant or processes, but there may be exceptions.

    1. Joe Well

      In Iceland they used a glut of geothermal energy to smelt aluminum, IIRC. Is there something inherent in certain industrial processes like aluminum smelting that means they are hard to do on an intermittent basis?

      1. Skip Intro

        I think for smelting, getting everything up to high temperatures requires a lot of time and energy. Having direct thermal energy available seems like an advantage for that as well.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        The main smelter in Iceland uses hydroelectricity. They built a major hydro dam in the east of the country specifically for that purpose (famously, the hydro scheme was held up as it was claimed that it would interfere with reindeer migrations, until someone pointed out that reindeer are very good swimmers).

    2. thousand points of green

      Here is a possibly interesting article I found linked-to on the Ran Prieur blog, called . . . ” To Free the Baltic Grid, Old Technology Is New Again Spinning megamachines will safeguard the Baltic power grid as it desynchronizes from the Russian grid” Now this application of this technology is for political and electro-security reasons. So it is not being asked to make a “profit” , I suspect. But I wonder if versions of it could store enough of the “unwanted surplus when generated” intermittent renewable power to matter from a conservation viewpoint. Here is the link.

      Since storing hydrogen gas is so hard, perhaps storing hydrogen gas “as” ammonia when it is being generated with surplus power and getting the hydrogen back out of the ammonia when it is wanted for burning it to get the stored energy back out would be the thing to do, if the above-described system of huge spinning masses cannot store enough energy to matter for this purpose.

      Then too, I remember reading years ago in comments here where somebody once wrote about how the Atlantic Richfield Corporation paid some of its scientists to come up with ways to use the petcoke left after all possible profitable molecules had been refined out of oil. ( “petcoke” –> ) One of the things this commenter mentioned is that the A.R. scientists learned how to “activate” the petcoke, like “activating” charcoal . . . filling it with “sagans” of tiny little nanopores. ( If a “sagan” is “billions and billions”, then “sagans” is “billions and billions and billions and billions”. And it would be easier to say “sagans” if people decide they like that word).

      And these scientists found that they could get hydrogen gas to adsorb itself onto every surface of every nanopore, getting hydrogen atoms to crowd together close enough to where the hydrogen was almost densepacked enough to be a “liquid”, but still at “uncompressed ambient” pressure and temperature. And they could take it back out and put it back in over and over and over again. So it was a way to store “liquid hydrogen” amounts of hydrogen in a low pressure way. So maybe vast surpluses of electroytically generated hydrogen could be stored-used-stored-used that way, with activated petcoke. Or maybe the right kind of biochar could be activated to have a saganload of hydrogen-holding nanopores in it. And use that for your hydrogen storage-retrieval-storage-retrieval-etc.-etc. round-and-round.

  6. Jason Boxman

    Not to mention we’re finding plastic inside people, inside cells even. Unless this stuff doesn’t shed under any conditions, why would we want more?

  7. Skip Intro

    “I try to plan for the worst-case scenario,” Eagan said during an interview. “If legislation is never in place to curb emissions, how do we operate within our capitalist system to generate value in a renewable and responsible way? At the end of the day, we will need new chemistry.”

    I think Eagan has a very limited imagination, when it comes to worst cases.

  8. James P McFadden

    The amount of Big Oil spin and selling of hopium to convince people it is safe to keep burning fossil fuels is pretty staggering. Just the other day The Atlantic had an article that simultaneously claimed: “2023 will be remembered as the year the clean-energy revolution took off in America.” It went on to quote Biden: “America is once again leading the world in the fight against climate change”. The article also reported that our ‘environmental’ President was overseeing policies where “the United States pumped out more oil than any other country in history” which was blamed on Putin. Furthermore, the article had the double-speak statement that: “reductions in U.S. oil production could actually result in higher overall emissions.”
    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
    So we can now we can add: “CO2 is plastic” and “more oil production is less CO2”
    Who actually buys into this nonsense…

    1. Piotr Berman

      “On 22 March 2021, the Council adopted a decision establishing the European Peace Facility (EPF).

      The EPF is an off-budget instrument aimed at enhancing the EU’s ability to:

      prevent conflicts
      build peace
      strengthen international security
      It also enables the financing of operational actions that have military or defence implications under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).”

      So, ostensibly, EU champions budgetary constraints, conflict prevention and building peace, and toward those noble goals, foments conflicts with Russia, wars in Sahel etc., and creates “off-budget instrument”, i.e. off-budget budget. In the process, non-hypocritical components are eliminated. (Needless to say, EPF non-budget budget is regularly increase, but the latest tranche is blocked by Hungary…)

  9. deplorado

    Is CO2 really the biggest greenhouse factor on Earth by total effect?
    If not, what part of the atmosphere is the biggest factor by total effect?
    Hint: it is water vapor.
    If it is water vapor, why are we focusing on CO2?

    Ask yourself that first.

    1. James P McFadden

      Because you can’t do anything about water vapor because we are a water planet. But more importantly, water vapor acts is a stabilizer — when it gets too hot, more clouds form to reflect light. What sort of point is deplorado trying to make?

        1. James P McFadden

          Then I’d have to say you are demonstrating your lack of understanding — repeating some nonsense you heard from someone who was either ignorant or purposefully trying to deceive you. I recommend you stop trying to BS something when you don’t have a clue about the science — about how absorption bands, black body radiation, and the energy balance function in the atmosphere. This is all undergrad physics — easy to understand and relatively easy to calculate. Next time try studying a subject before you repeat some nonsensical talking points. Global warming and climate chaos has been understood for 4 decades. We don’t need ignorant people pretending they understand the science spreading climate denial blarney.

          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            I would have said the same thing in a simpler way for a simpler reason. The scientists making predictions about our persistent one-way upwarming trend based their predictions on the rising amount of skycarbon ( and some noted equal-or-stronger heat-trapping effects from other gases . . . nitrogen oxides and etc.) And the predictions they made based on CO2 trapping heat have come to pass as predicted and continue to keep coming to pass. Which shows that skycarbon flooding is just as important and process-driving as they said it was and say it is.

            So . . . neither red nor herring.

            As an amateur science buff, I hope somebody someday offers a post or a comment right here on this blogsite explaining in total step-by-step detail just exactly what aerial O=C=O does to retain heat here at the surfacesphere and just exactly how it does it.
            Step by step by step. And what exactly each step does.
            And where the heat goes once it has been “retained” by the CO2 ( after explaining just exactly how the CO2 has retained that heat and then explaining just exactly how the CO2 passes that retained heat along to the rest of the atmosphere and then to the rest of the whole surfacesphere.)

            And then people could start analyzing and describing just what role water ice, water liquid and water vapor play in storing heat, releasing heat, moving heat around, allowing heat to re-radiate back into space.

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