Mike Rowse A voice from New Mexico

19Oct/160

Technology is catching up…

wind turbine fire

One of the problems with so-called renewable energies like solar or wind generated electricity, is that the supply of electricity is inconsistent. There are multiple other problems but we've seen this play out almost every time that renewable energy has been used to generate electricity on a large scale. Of course the push for renewable sources of electricity is driven by the belief that man is creating climate change, primarily through our generation of CO2. Despite the fact that we have taken great steps to limit the amount of CO2 that man puts into the atmosphere and that even if we were producing CO2 as best as we could, the amount we produced would be minuscule as compared to what is created naturally from things like volcanoes.

Scientists at Oak Ridge national laboratory have come up with a way to turn CO2 into ethanol. And not only is it efficient, but ethanol is already used as fuel. The report on their findings really addresses the benefits of the technology in terms of averting climate change. But there are some other more important benefits.

Right now producing ethanol from plant-based material like corn is inefficient. It takes more energy to create the ethanol then the ethanol creates when it is used as a fuel. Plus the production of ethanol is subsidized by the federal government which skews not only the production costs upward but the price upward as well: not to mention that it makes those plant-based materials like corn or expensive for people who want to use it as a food. So a new method that is low-cost and efficient that can produce a significant amount of ethanol would be a good thing. It would bring the price of ethanol down and also cause more of the plant-based material produced ethanol to be taken out of production and returned to the food market.

Of the technology used to turn CO2 into ethanol is fairly simple and uses copper and carbon combine into nanospikes, which are then put on a silicone surface and using small amounts of electricity turns the CO2 into ethanol. Very importantly, this process works at room temperature so does not need to be supercooled. The conversion process could also be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation smoothing out fluctuations in renewable energy grid.

So now we have taken a step forward in the technology that could help us to create more renewable energy at lower prices. That's a good thing isn't it? The authors of the report did not mention what kind of money they spent in trying to find this solution but did say that they found it on the first try. It is expected that this would be a much more complicated process. I'm sure the money we gave them will be spent some other way rather than returning it to us but that's another story for another day. But simply as we push forward with research the technology will eventually catch up with our goals. We cannot artificially force people into using renewable energies that are inefficient and expensive. But as things like this happen we will get closer to the goal that almost everyone wants, clean pollution free, renewable sources of energy that are widely available.

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