Save the World! Earn $25 million!

Guest commentary from Juliane Fry, UC Berkeley

On February 9, The Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson announced a $25 million prize for anyone who can demonstrate “a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate.” At the press conference announcing this “Virgin Earth Challenge”, Branson was joined by Al Gore, and the panel of judges for the competition includes additional climate change celebrities: James Hansen, James Lovelock, Tim Flannery, and Sir Crispin Tickell.

The goal of the competition is to find a method that will remove at least 1 billion tons of carbon per year from the atmosphere. It will be very interesting to see what ideas come to the fore to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere. $25m should encourage some creativity! (and of course, once working should bring in a significant amount of carbon offset money). A ruckus was caused last year when discussion of injecting SO2 into the stratosphere to form reflective sulfate aerosols to mask global warming made scientists feel they needed to state their position on this controversial, poorly understood proposal. During the discussion, a New York Times feature (described here ) discussed various “geo-engineering” alternatives to exert a cooling effect to mask global warming. At least in this case, we are not seeking to add something new and uncertain to the atmosphere, but rather, remove something that we added.

192 comments on this post.
  1. James:

    Re #150: “If CO2-hungry mineral dust is dispersed from a tall stack…”

    But of course questions arise: Do the necessary quantities of such minerals exist in a form that’s “CO2-hungry” without the input of a lot of energy? How much energy does it take to mine such minerals, grind them to powder, & disperse them? What are the effects on health &c of the dust plumes? (Remember asbestos, and black lung disease?) And so on…

    Seems to me that anything that does a decent job of mitigating the effects of coal burning is so costly, one way or another, as to make almost any alternate energy source cheaper.

  2. Patrick McNulty:

    Seems to me that anything that does a decent job of mitigating the effects of coal burning is so costly, one way or another, as to make almost any alternate energy source cheaper.

    Exactly right!

  3. Paul Dietz:

    Remember asbestos,

    In fact, asbestos is a form of one of the minerals being discussed for CO2 mineralization. Better make sure you’re not blowing that stuff out a stack!

  4. Richard LaRosa:

    Please give serious consideration to #65 and #114. We all need to learn more about the ocean food chain and how to enhance it. Google sea butterflies (sea angels, pteropods), for example. They are beautiful.

  5. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE 125, 128, 129, 147 & “For an expanding population GW may be needed to create productivity from land currently too cold”: There are other problems for agri in a GW world, aside from less arable land area & geopolitical issues, as well, such as:

    1. greater droughts & floods, even floods during drought times.
    2. greater brush fires whipped by greater wind, on top of greater storm damage (it’s that extra marginal umph of GW-enhanced storm intensity or last few inches of flood water breaching the levee that can really destroy crops, not to mention towns and cities).
    3. CO2 may be good for C4 crop plants (to an extent), but it’s even better for C3 weeds to overtake the crops; plus the crops, pound for pound, would be less nutritious — which means greater damage from insects, who need to get their nutrients, too. (This is from actual experiments with increased CO2.)
    4. And, I’d guess there could even be too much of a good thing: CO2 in sufficiently great quantities could perhaps even harm plants. (Well, if the denialists are talking about atmospheric CO2 reaching saturations points, I can imagine plants being too saturated with CO2.)

    Re #141, hope you’re right JD (that GW turns out to be a good thing), but I’m not stopping my efforts to reduce GHGs. Just call me selfish, but, hey, I’m saving money here, and I’ll be long gone before anyone can sue me for refusing to contribute to GW.

    Re #145, I think the Flat Earth Society finally went defunct — I heard on the radio some 5 years ago that the last member had just died. Now that society took, what, 300+ years to die out. Maybe that’s how long it’ll take for the “GW Denialist Society” to go defunct.

  6. John L. McCormick:

    RE # 155

    Lynn RE#145, I am saddened to hear the Flat Earth Society is now defunct.

    It might be time to regenerate it. I have driven across Kansas and I know what I know.

  7. John D.:

    Every thing that we do today can change with the blink of an eye. I never said that we should not stop moving forward on solutions. Open discussion does not make one a skeptic. Not looking at both sides of the coin, gives you tunnel vision. At this moment, there is a scenario being cultivated about what is to come, because of the evidence that we have with the limitations of today’s science. Tomorrows science or a natural occurance may bring about a different observation which will undoubtedly change the direction of how we deal with it.

    It does not mean that we should all go to sleep and hope it never happens. Selling your property in the Bahamas would be a very good move right about now, if todays near future scenario does not change.

  8. John D.:

    Gee, Barton. Gravity. Out of the millions of discoveries and theories over the last 500 years, that have been proven, changed, tweeked, disproven and re-worded, that one never came to mind. I’m sorry, I should have consulted you first. Let’s move on.

  9. Lendel Zed:

    Hi, once when I asked about scrubbing on a thread here, the boron burner fellow gave a link that I found interesting. However, I have had trouble finding out where the research went after 2002.

    My understanding is, even if the process is still crude, and/or expensive, a 120 sq km facility could be built in any country with a sizable desert, for example in Australia in the Simpson Desert. And as far as I can see so far, the real roadblock isn’t technology or will per se, but the threat this facility would be to the planned global carbon economy i.e. it wouldn’t be required as such. Also that related things (eg general pollution and other environmental issues) wouldn’t get addressed under the GW banner as many people are hoping they will. To me the question is, do people want the CO2 level problem addressed or not?

    There’s a hundred billion dollar space station being assembled in orbit overhead as we speak. I don’t see a large-scale scrubbing facility as fantasy or impractical in that light.

  10. John L. McCormick:

    RE # 157
    John D, you said:

    [Tomorrows science or a natural occurrence may bring about a different observation which will undoubtedly change the direction of how we deal with it.]

    Contributors to RC have a wide range of knowledge (from reader to researcher) regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Their backgrounds and present day experiences range from: high school science students; college professors of all types of sciences; journalists steadily writing on the topic; climate modelers, lead authors of chapters of the IPCC Assessment Report and avid readers of the science of AGW with no science expertise (that would include me).

    I can say with some assurance that nothing I have ever read or heard comes close to your comment that I interpret as��..some new information or natural occurrence [one massive solar anomaly] will change the direction of how we deal with it.

    The [ it ] to which you refer is (my assumption) a global warming world. Since CO2 concentrations have risen from 280 ppm to a bit more than 382 ppm (highest level in 650,000 years and that should tell you something) in about 110 years and economic growth projections for fossil fuel dependent economies point upward, my NOAA graph tells me a safe assumption would be 403 ppm by 2020. Add the other greenhouse gases and the CO2 equivalent is much higher.

    Scientists who have invested most (all) of their professional lives in the study of AGW project this greater concentration of climate-forcing gases will add more heat to the earthâ??s land, oceans and air. You have to accept that or you do not.

    The burden of accepting the data of observed rising temperatures is becoming mind-bending for some of us because the trend lines point to more heat, more sea level rise, more drought, more more.

    I am old enough that I might just duck under the fence and miss the misery. My son and daughter will have to face the consequences of previous generations life styles without me.

    There is absolutely no comfort in your comment and I plead with you to spend a bit more time reading some very comprehensive and intelligible books and articles regarding the science of AGW.

    Another John D. had the world to play with about a century ago and did all right for himself. You, John D. and the rest of us are rapidly approaching a time when we have to eat the seed corn. There is no little ice age coming to cool our planet down and if [some massive solar anomaly] does come our way, that will not help matters, will it?

    Try again to talk about where your REALLY see this global discussion going with regard to AGW and offer us something we can chew on. Or, move on to a topic that does not threaten you so.

  11. Jonathan Mulligan:

    # 127, thankyou for your kind words, but outed myself from what? being simple?
    #128, Yes quite right about mercator, I’m not referring to overall area but to production. Longer days. Canada will have longer growing seasons. For hotter areas GM crops are in the pipeline that have the ability to totally shut down between drinks and restart when the rains occur. Crops grow through temperatures well over 40C here so I don’t see too much hassle when most world Ag production is grown in temperatures well below this. You are assuming (probably correctly) that current farming land will go out of production. Maybe a change of use to grazing. No-till will certainly be required.

    #129 , it’s solved by trade, you know where people swap things for other things.

    #138, The CIMMTY in Mexico were quoted in a farming journal suggesting how wheat in Central and southern Alaska would be viable with increased temp. I cannot confirm so I used “it is said..”.

    “Agricultural production is expected to drop under global warming, not increase.” From current areas maybe.

    #155, No 2 is the scary prospect, how do we know our levees are high enough and we can’t levee too large an area or they become self defeating. I depend on no.1 (flood during drought)and cope with no.3. I’m not a denier so don’t know about 4.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t curb GHG emitting practises, it’s just how far do we go if some form of CO2 removal is viable?

  12. John D.:

    # 160
    John, I sure wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. I must choose my words carefully so as not to compromise my position. You stated “scientists who have invested most of their professional lives in the study of AGW projects”, well I have spent a good deal of mine involved in a different area and I can tell you this, you are not that old that you will miss what’s coming and climate change will certainly be placed on the back-burner as the least of your problems. Keep an eye on the color of the horizon. Good day to all.

  13. John Feeney:

    I think there’s merit both to the concern that such a techno-fix could be just the license corporations are looking for to continue with business as usual, and the point that removing CO2 would, after all, be a good thing (if approached with care concerning the effects of doing so…). Perhaps the way to look at it is that we need a two-pronged approach whereby we (a) encourage development of technologies to do this, while (b) we simultaneously develop programs to address the behaviors that got us into this mess to begin with. (e.g., the drive for ceaseless economic growth rather than a seeking of some form of steady state)

  14. Snowfire:

    Re #146
    Really!? Since when is half a solution worse than no solution at all? I don’t understand the logic here. Is it truly better to do nothing at all, waiting for the perfect solution which may or may not materialize, rather than to do at least as much as we know how? One would think that strategies could be shifted in time if better ones are developed, after all; and to those who say that passive remediation alone (i.e. merely curtaliling future emissions) can solve the problem, I reply that such a view is looking less and less plausible the more we know.

  15. Nigel Williams:

    While we are pottering about with solutions, why are we stressing about dealing with CO2 post-combustion? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to get the H out of the hydrocarbon before it gets near the burner? There MUST be a sensible way to extract the H from the raw hydrocarbon (coal, oil) and leave the C+(something inert) behind so we only burn H, and sequester the inert C+muck someplace. Even if the process was a tad inefficient, it would get us away from handling gaseous CO2 with all its impossibilities and provide the ‘ideal’ fuel – at least for the intermediate term.

    It would also let the ‘big boys’ still play the oil game, and they could feel good about it too, while we sort out a more sustainable solution. Gaia would be pleased.

  16. John L. McCormick:

    RE # 165,

    Nigel, getting the hydrogen out of the coal before it reaches the boiler sounds like a winner except for the fact there aint much H there.

    A ton of Pittsburgh coal from the large, Pittsburgh #8 seam contains 73.8 percent carbon, 2.13 percent suflur, 7.1 percent ash and only 4.9 percent hydrogen. And hydrogen content of Wyoming Powder River Basin coal is 3.31 percent; Texas lignite, 2.68 percent.

    US power plant boilers consume about 900 million tons of coal. Using average of 4 percent hydrogen content, the coal would yield about 40 million tons of H….not enough to keep the economy humming.

  17. Paul Dietz:

    The usual approaches for making hydrogen from coal get most of the hydrogen from steam that reacts with the carbon in the coal. The CO2 gets separated before combustion and would have to be sequestered to avoid CO2 emission.

    Extracting hydrogen from methane, on the other hand, could make sense; the energy required to separate 1 mole of hydrogen from methane is much less than that required to separate 1 mole from water, and the energy can be provided as heat. I vaguely recall an international study that concluded the best way to use nuclear energy to make hydrogen was by thermal decomposition of methane. Of course you get even more hydrogen if you do steam reforming, but that makes CO2.

    I wonder if a geothermochemical energy system could be designed to make hydrogen by exploiting hot reduced rocks and magmas, reacting steam with reduced transition metals and sulfides.

  18. Nigel Williams:

    Thanks for that guys! There’s gotta be a way, eh! Surely some catalist will let us do this.. but that’s what the $25M is for, eh! Watching with interest.

  19. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #161, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t curb GHG emitting practises, it’s just how far do we go if some form of CO2 removal is viable?”

    This is how far we should go (at the very least): to the extent that it’s saving us money without reducing our living standards or productivity. That probably means about 75% or more here in the U.S., given current technology, and who knows how much further, given future tech advances. (See for insights into this.)

    I think it was Amory Lovins who said that running out of rocks was not the cause of us giving up making and using rock tools, and running out of fossil fuels will not be the cause of us ceasing to use them.

    Other considerations would be how our reductions also reduce a lot of other harms, aside from the negative GW effects.

  20. Scott B:

    There is a good fix to Branson’s request already- it’s called nuclear energy. The GE-AP1000 is the latest released design and it’s a big improvement over 3-mile island.

    And the series IV will be even more efficient producing much less waste with half lives of only several hundred years. By the time they come out the waste problem could very well be minuscule.

  21. Paul Dietz:

    And the series IV will be even more efficient producing much less waste with half lives of only several hundred years.

    The only way a nuclear reactor can produce only shortlived wastes is by essentially complete recycling and destruction of actinides. Attempts to do this so far have been dismal economic failures. Which Gen IV design do you think will change this? Molten salt reactors? Yes indeed, reactor operators will just love a reactor in which the entire primary loop is contaminated with fission products, and they get to operate an online radiochemical processing plant at each reactor facility. Utility execs are going to be all excited about added functions they have to be reponsible for.

  22. James:

    Re #170: Quite aside from arguments on the merits of nuclear power, unless I’ve badly misread something, it wouldn’t qualify to be considered for Branson’s prize. That’s for a method of removing CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere, which is quite a different, and more difficult, goal that simply finding an energy source that doesn’t add more.

  23. Nigel Williams:

    Oh, alright then! I appreciate that this isnâ??t an alternative energy site, but anyway: Letâ??s chuck some bits and a box in a room with a thousand monkeys for a while and see if we can reconstruct Teslaâ??s car!

    Quote from

    Supported by the Pierce-Arrow Co. and General Electric in 1931, [Nikola Tesla] took the gasoline engine from a new Pierce-Arrow and replaced it with an 80-horsepower alternating-current electric motor with no external power source.

    At a local radio shop he bought 12 vacuum tubes, some wires and assorted resistors, and assembled them in a circuit box 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 6 inches high, with a pair of 3-inch rods sticking out. Getting into the car with the circuit box in the front seat beside him, he pushed the rods in, announced, â??We now have powerâ??, and proceeded to test drive the car for a week, often at speeds of up to 90 mph.

    Quote ends.

    Tesla was very aware of the natural harmonic frequencies of the earth. That would do nicely, wouldnâ??t it?

  24. Marco Parigi:

    Re: 172 – Does removing equivalent ambient CH4 count? Sounds way easier.

  25. Shane P:

    re 98. It’s a bit nit picky to argue that becuase Australia doesn’t manufacture incandescent light bulbs that it has taken an easy option. Yes, there is a lot more the current administration could do…

    You could equally have argued that over time there will be less energy expended in transporting the lights from the point of manufacture; a bonus?

    It’s a start, and it’s also interesting that a Government that generally toes the line on “free markets” being the only possible means of implementing “solutions” has adopted a regulatory approach.

    More generally, there is some “magical thinking” in some of the more naive (meant gently) “solutions” proposed… like the idea of just making the oceans more alkaline. Where do people think that Sodium Hydroxide comes from? OR Using CaO “trees”… where did this CaO come from?

    Asimov once stated words to the effect that any technology, sufficiently advanced would appear to be magical. Well, there is a flip side to that, and it doesn’t involve the technology, rather the perceptions/(miss)understanding of the generally science/technology illiterate public. In this consumeristic globalised world is there a potentially fatal disconnect between products/manufacturing and the consumers understanding of the processes involved? When people believe that money is more real than real things?

    Another commenter here noted the fierce debate on water management in Australia. The “drought” (in an arid continent how is that defined?) here has probably had a large part in changing the public perception on the climate change issue. The “technical solution” proposed by many a pundit has been to ‘build more dams’, as it is well known that mystical magical dam energy induces the clouds to rain.

    And now a poor joke.
    How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?
    Well, in theory, if the light bulb is offered enough money, it will change itself!

  26. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[Supported by the Pierce-Arrow Co. and General Electric in 1931, [Nikola Tesla] took the gasoline engine from a new Pierce-Arrow and replaced it with an 80-horsepower alternating-current electric motor with no external power source.
    At a local radio shop he bought 12 vacuum tubes, some wires and assorted resistors, and assembled them in a circuit box 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 6 inches high, with a pair of 3-inch rods sticking out. Getting into the car with the circuit box in the front seat beside him, he pushed the rods in, announced, “We now have power”, and proceeded to test drive the car for a week, often at speeds of up to 90 mph.
    Quote ends.
    Tesla was very aware of the natural harmonic frequencies of the earth. That would do nicely, wouldn’t it? ]]

    I suspect he had a powerful electric generator somewhere nearby, and the car was picking up the electric field from that. He commonly worked with potential drops of millions of volts. Did anyone recall how far the miracle car got from his lab?

  27. James:

    Re #176: “I suspect he had a powerful electric generator somewhere nearby, and the car was picking up the electric field from that.”

    Reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the Vermont farmer who invented a free electric generator after the power company routed a transmission line through his cow pasture. Just a properly-aligned roll of barbed wire, a couple of leads, and no more power bills :-)

  28. sahin:

    benm parlak bi fikrim yok ama bi derdim var…yaw ben hayatim boyunca bi araba sahibi olamicam ama dunyada 600 milyon araba varmis bunun küresel ısınmadaki etkisi tartisilmicak derecede byk…yani bnm hic bi zaman sahip olamicam bi sey bnm dunyamı mahfediyorr.yazik bana ve bnm gibilere!!!!!!

    [Response: I fixed some characters, but possibly erroneously – this is a bug in how the comments get entered into the database which needs to be fixed (anyone know what I should be looking for?) – gavin]

  29. Paul Dietz:

    like the idea of just making the oceans more alkaline. Where do people think that Sodium Hydroxide comes from?

    That’s not magical thinking, that’s a statement of a subproblem. And you’re right, where does the sodium hydroxide (or whatever source of positive ions) come from? It’s quite possible there will be no feasible solution to this subproblem, in which case that approach is a dead end.

  30. Figen Mekik:

    To Gavin and Sahin in comment 178. I believe Sahin’s comment is in Turkish. I can translate and post his comment in English upon request.

  31. Hank Roberts:

    Hey, everything has risks.

  32. Jonathan Mulligan:

    re#169, you miss my point it seems. If some form of CO2 removal is feasible ie cost effective, where is the cut of point at which we say we have done enough and we should stop removing any more.Pre-industrial levels of atmosprheric CO2? 50 years ago levels?

  33. Jonathan:

    Because gasoline is such an excellent energy carrier it may remain the dominant transportation fuel (think coal+fischer tropsch+scrubber). This depends on which is cheaper in terms of energy, money, and infrastructure, gasoline or a non-carbon energy carrier/storage such as hydrogen or electricity. The issue is whether it is better to scrub the air from distributed co2 sources or if it is better to use an awkward energy carrier.

    Regarding the scrubber design, yes sodium hydroxide is the plan. And yes, it continues to be worked on.

    It is correct that the $25 million is perhaps trivial and the strings attached may be more annoying than its worth if the prize is in fact contingent on 1 billion tons having been sequestered. At $1/ton the $1 billion would dwarf the prize. Yes Klaus Lackner is still working on this.

    Trees do fix co2 from the air but then must not be allowed to decompose otherwise they are neutral. Reforestation would be great but even if all the forests were regrown they could never fix enough co2 to balance anthropogenic output. Details are in the IPCC report from 2001 on this subject.

    Coal plants can be legislated to scrub sulfur, nitrogen, particulates, etc. The air at a modern facility can leave cleaner than when it went in. Can being the operative word regarding coal. Waste to energy plants have numbers to prove that they really do this. The ZECA plant would have zero emissions altogether (another idea largely by Klaus Lackner).

    Mineralization of serpentine, olivine, and other silicates is also being pursued at several labs around the US and europe. The energy and money costs are still at issue. The kinetics of both dissolution and precipitation must be improved and presently represents a large energy penalty, though the reaction is exothermic and happens naturally in large amounts over geologic time.

    Ocean sequestration is largely dead because of the pH issue though some are still investigating with hydrate formation as a barrier to diffusion very much the intention. The Japanese really liked it and studied it intensively in the 90’s and are still investigating it. Some still thinks it is viable if the co2 is reacted with alkaline seafloor.

    Details on each of these subjects can be found in Science as well as other journals. Except for the scrubber all of the previously mentioned are in the IPCC report on carbon capture and sequestration. There are other forms of carbon sequestration as well. At the moment geologic sequestration (injection into deep saline aquifers or other permeable strata) is the primary method in part because it is technologically mature and in part because it is cheapest. It is however risky over land (think leakage in a populated area) not to mention that the volumes involved imply raising the earth which has tectonic implications on a large enough scale. Other research is on CO2 injection into deep marine sediments. The Sleipner project injects CO2 into an aquifer under the North Sea which is probably the safest method of geological sequestration since leakage would be diluted by the ocean preventing catastrophe – as long as it is a slow leak. Another idea is to inject co2 into cold pressurized sediments to form a hydrate.

    The Branson prize is excellent for the publicity it generates and the role it is serving in educating the public and getting the public thinking and talking about the issue. Carbon sequestration is necessary because people will use carbon based fuels until solar/wind/nuclear become cheap enough to compete (or politically acceptable in the case of nuclear). This means that a tax on carbon is imperative. But even with a carbon tax the time necessary for the infrastructure changes is approximately a generation, 30-40 years (think of how long your typical coal plant, car, etc lasts). Its unfortunate but scrubbers and carbon sequestration are necessary.

    When zero emission power plants were first proposed in the 1990s it was a radical idea that people thought impractical and unnecessary. Now it is has become a standard idea that is part of any discussion. Perhaps scrubbers will become ubiquitous and “standard” in a couple decades.

  34. Barton Paul Levenson:

    It’s true that plants that decompose again release as much CO2 as they fixed, but if the size of the Earth’s plant biomass can be increased, more of the carbon will still be in plants and not in the air. The reverse of this is why deforestation is contributing to CO2 buildup.

  35. Janis Mara:

    Wow! Amidst this plethora of posts, just wanted to respond to #46, which asked, “Can we formulate a society and way of life in which we live in voluntarily restrictrive circumstances? It’s never happened yet, and it goes against human nature.”

    I may be responding to something you didn’t actually say, but the thought that comes to me is when conditions become sufficiently uncomfortable, people do indeed adopt voluntarily restrictive behavior. For example, when gas goes over $3 a gallon, they start doing all the things they’ve been told to do for years: Take fewer trips, carpool, use public transportation. It’s a cost/benefit thing and I think that with all the attention to energy issues these days, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of voluntarily changing their behavior.

  36. John L. McCormick:

    RE # 185

    Janis, you said

    [For example, when gas goes over $3 a gallon, they start doing all the things they’ve been told to do for years: Take fewer trips, carpool, use public transportation.]

    I thought the same until I checked the US monthly gasoline consumption totals against the price during that month. Would that we were smarter or more prudent…sorry. The price spike seems to have made nary a dent in consumption.

    Price in Sept. 2004 for a gallon of conventional gasoline was $1.93; consumption that month was 181,323,000 barrels. In Sept 2005, price jumped to $3.08 and consumption diminished to 176,382,000 or a 2.72 percent drop. Maybe it was a bigger percentage drop from potential – given growth in demand year-to-year. It seems a few of us did the right thing.

    Price in Sept. 2006 averaged $2.36 and consumption was 184,185,000 bbl. or about 4.25 percent increase over the Sept 2005 demand. Back to our bad, old habits.

    What this tells me is the carbon tax (it has my vote) will have to kick gasoline prices way above $3 per gallon to get our heads on straight.

  37. Patrick McNulty:

    And how much more per kilowatt hour is all this carbon capture going to cost us on our elecric bill? Then what is next? All these nice little nasties?

  38. Burn boron in pure O2 for car power:

    I hope McCormick will consider the possibility that the coincidence of past increases in gasoline tax and increases in usage is not by chance.

    To some, an increase in the size of the public purse, due to increased gasoline taxation, means greater security and privilege. To others, it just means paying more money. If the former group is more influential than those from whom the extra money is taken, then more tax is exactly the wrong way to go.

    Let those who doubt this explain why speed limits are laxly enforced and why public servants routinely lead us by example in flouting them; and why AC Propulsion, maker of desirable electric vehicles, sprang up in the USA and not in a high-fuel-tax European country.

  39. John L. McCormick:

    re # 188

    I will consider, if you will explain what you mean by

    [the possibility that the coincidence of past increases in gasoline tax and increases in usage is not by chance.]

    The comment makes no sense to me. What State tax increase (how much?) caused what increased usage (of what?)

  40. Bryan L Shepherd:

    although I consider my economic development proposal for north east ohio
    (The Pheonix project) to be the most dynamic and aggressive idea for the stabilization of the enviroment,(As far as the great lakes are concerned)and the revitalization of industry for the state of Ohio,
    I have developed a new proposal to reverse the emmision of carbon dioxide that I will call the “Green machine”, cause 25 million would
    surely help me get the Pheonix Phlying.
    To find out about this “new industry” contact me (Mr.Branson/Gore.)
    at the s-hepherd b-ryan c-ure global network.

  41. Dennis Revell:

    J. Stolaroff says in his Ph.D thesis:

    “Given that it is possible to extract CO2 rapidly from the atmosphere in a relatively small area, we may be concerned that the process would be limited by local atmospheric transport of CO2. Johnston et al. (2003) have studied this problem with global atmospheric and chemical transport modeling. They conclude that the transport and circulation of CO2 is such that the entire flow of anthropogenic CO2 could be offset by a single global sink of no more than 75,000 km2 in area, and with intelligent placement of sinks, a small fraction of that area would be needed.”

    I wonder if the 75,000 km2 is a misprint? I interpret it as 75 X 103 km2 – larger than or comparable to the area of quite a few countries. If it’s not a misprint, why so much “glee” which is what I intimate from the use of the words “no more than”.

    That’s twenty-nine-thousand square miles. Somewhat less than half the area of the UK. Easy peasy.

    (Note to self: garage later to work on the next square mile)

    More seriously: that 75,000 km2 figure comes from a reference in the thesis: “Johnston, N., Blake, D., Rowland, F., Elliott, S., Lackner, K., Ziock, H., Dubey,M., Hanson, H., and Barr, S. (2003). Chemical transport modeling of potential atmospheric CO2 sinks. Energy Conversion and Management, 44(5):681â��689.”

    Anybody know where I can get a look/explanation for it – I mean without having to pay? Poor old, oh I dunno, and can’t be bothered looking it up, but t’was Pythagoras or Aristotle said: “Give him a penny, he wants to profit from knowledge”. Reagan and the current bunch of Reagan re-tread fascists currently running the US would have hated him, and probably approved the Roman soldier who ran whichever one of them through with his sword. Thumbs down.

    How do you get an article/paper published here? I found this site as I saw Richard Somerville giving a pretty good lecture on UCTV, and he recommended this site. He did, however give a warning that “thar bloggers lurk”, but not to worry too much as only “real climate scientists” were allowed to post articles/papers. OK, my next question, what’s a “real” climate scientist, and is there a register of them somewhere, and if so, how do I get my name on it?

    Obvious corollary, is there also or otherwise a register of fake climate scientists? I wouldn’t want to get my name on the wrong list by mistake.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch that there are hundreds or thousands of real climate scientists working in the US and elsewhere, and phew, hasn’t it been an uphill struggle somewhat to only just now apparently having got the message across to the majority of mainstream media mislead American people? But, well, you know, except tangentially – confirmatory measurements via satellite – and good job on the Ozone layer thing and all that, but, well, this climate stuff isn’t rocket science, is it?

    It it helps at all I worked in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern until 1905, ooops,,, sorry ,,, misprint: 2005.

    Just kidding in the last para.*

    Final enquiry (unless I think of something else), has anyone here entered, or know anyone who has entered, R. Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge (VEC), and if so has any reply been received? I figured out most of this excess anthropogenic CO2 stuff back in 1998, and pretty much, for various reasons, some good some not so good, just sat on it since then. Now R. Branson has spurred me to download the VEC Entry Form and send if off, but so far, nary a peep. Anyone else?

    Can’t remember what spurred me into action back in 1998, perhaps there was something in the news about it then, perhaps even Al Gore remembered he’d once written a book about it, and said something – after many years of voluntary self-gagging. Sorry for that Inconvenient Truth, Mr. Gore – there goes my steel trap long term memory again.

    Anyways, I figured out then that it’s a big job, even as big a job implied by one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I heard of R. Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge, which was that Mr. Branson, entirely for vicarious purposes, of course, and out of concern for general moral welfare, with mainland Britain having run out of virgins (no surprise there) was offering a reward if anyone could find the last British one – anywhere on Planet Earth.

    Yes, a big job – but certainly not 29,000 square miles big.

    Thanks in advance for any/all answers to queries received.

    Oh, yea, what was I doing. That’s right, forgot to mention: the short term memory on the other hand is crap, so if it takes me a while to respond, it’s because it took me a while to remember what I was doing.

    *It was in fact 1905 ;-)

  42. Burn boron in pure O2 for car power:

    75 billion square metres probably is an upper bound. This Dubey-mentioning page says less than 1 m^2 per person, i.e. less than 7,000 km^2 for the whole planetary population if they all become non-boron-burning motorists.

    The comments above include some talk of digging up and comminution of CO2-hungry minerals and dispersing them, so that a large part of the lower atmosphere becomes the reaction vessel. Quicklime, CaO, is not such a mineral — it has such a strong CO2 affinity that there is none to dig up, and you have to make it in the first place, although the energy cost of this is not prohibitive — so maybe that explains the area discrepancy. 7,000 km^2 if quicklime is used and then calcined to feed pure CO2 to a mineral, 75,000 km^2 if the mineral is used directly.