Friday, July 11, 2008

Going green: General overview (Part 1)

Alright, I admit it...I feel as though there are things that we can do to have less of an impact on the environment. I may as well take a moment to mention them here, as they've been keeping me preoccupied of late.

Some time ago I referred to the Virgin Earth initiative. I've put in some effort to create one or more solutions to be suitable for submission, and it's been an interesting path. Once I've formalized some of my findings, I'll go into additional detail -- for now, though, you just get a teaser.

First, it seems as though economically self sustaining processes can be put in place that will offset what's currently going on in the world. Where the economic side of things begins to run into challenges is in scaling it up to the point where it makes a notable difference on either a global scale, or at least on the scale represented by our global production of such things that we'd want to offset.

It turns out that the mechanisms for dealing with some of the notable byproducts aren't that complicated, and much research has already been done in numerous areas on the matter. Heck, you can even take the initiative to deal with those byproducts and wind up with an interesting variety of commercially viable end products as a result. Where the problem arises, though, is in the realization that for a number of those end products you'll wind up producing more than there's demand for (and so doing so will only be profitable to a point).

The approach I'm considering at the moment is a somewhat dynamic production line...that is to say, that a few key processes are in place which can be turned on and off as desired. Directing flow through some of the processes will produce "A", while 'flicking a switch or two' will result in the production of "B", "C", or what have you. In this fashion, you could produce as much A/B/C as the markets would bear sensibly, and turn the profit back into the operation to continue the clean-up initiative as much beyond that as those profits would allow on an ongoing basis.

Initial efforts are for a direct reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, keeping in mind the target goal of removing 1 billion tons of CO2 per year, sustainably.

It actually turns out that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is relatively easy. That being said, what do you do with what you've captured? Well, I don't feel that sequestering the gas directly is a sensible long term solution...somehow pumping billions of tons of gas underground seems like a potentially bad idea. (What if by some geological quirk or shift it wound up escaping en-masse...sure it might dissipate _relatively_ rapidly, but what happens in the meantime, particularly if this occurred near a populated area? Temporary displacement of breatheable air in a region, even for a few minutes...well, you get the idea)

What, then? Well, solid carbon, water, oxygen when desired, and a variety of marketable byproducts seems like a step in the right direction.

Power for the operation will be using green sources...I'd prefer to leverage sunlight as much as possible, since at first glance it seems more sensible to put that energy to use "directly" -- the same energy which by a variety of mechanisms is what's warming the globe to begin with (enter the laws of thermodynamics). Other green energy sources can be used to good effect too, of course -- just need to keep in mind the end goals so that things don't go off track.

Hrmm...I'm rambling a little more than intended, so I'll close for now with that -- I'm at the tail end of a nasty cold that's making concentration difficult and coherence elusive.

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