Canadian Company Plans to Make Fossil Fuels from CO2?

An article that showed up on Google News today redirects to a Forbes article about Canadian company called Carbon Engineering that wants to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it into gasoline, diesel, and jet engine fuel.

This is another example of Google News shilling for questionable news articles because the Forbes article about Carbon Engineering (see below) makes absolutely no sense to me.

Carbon Engineering is promoting a system that extracts CO2 from the atmosphere, converts it into a liquid (which uses up a lot of energy during the compression process) and then mixes that liquid CO2 with water and hydrogen to manufacture gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel.  The company estimates that their product would sell for around $4 a gallon according to the article.

The first problem with this story is that, when you burn these synthetic fuels, the waste products from that combustion are going to be carbon dioxide and water, so what is the point of removing the CO2 from the atmosphere if you’re just going to put it back again?

If there is carbon dioxide in their synthetic fuels, when those fuels are burned, that carbon dioxide will simply be released again. Where else could it go? The hydrogen in the fuel will metabolize into WATER when it burns, releasing the encapsulated carbon dioxide.

Extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an energy intensive process. Manufacturing hydrogen gas (regardless of the method you use) is also an energy intensive process. Manufacturing the synthetic fuel is an energy intensive process.

In fact, the high costs of manufacturing hydrogen has long been a barrier to using hydrogen as a transportation fuel. There is in fact no easy or cheap way to manufacture hydrogen, which currently sells at the pump for around $16.67 per kilogram in California in 2017. (One kilogram of hydrogen has approximately the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline but costs four times as much.)

Once you have produced the hydrogen, why not simply use the hydrogen as a transportation fuel? Almost any engine can be converted to hydrogen fuels. It’s an expensive conversion (which is essentially identical to converting an automobile to burn propane or natural gas) but there are thousands of vehicles on the road right now that are using hydrogen, natural gas, or propane.  The hydrogen burning vehicles have one distinct advantage: they do not generate carbon dioxide.

The only rationale that I can come up with for this idea is that these synthetic fuels could be introduced into the fuel pipeline immediately because it could be used by existing gasoline, diesel, and jet engines without modifications…and I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense, if we were in a fuel crisis and absolutely needed to replace natural fossil fuels with synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.

Don’t count on seeing this fuel at your local gas station any time soon, however. In order for this to be financially viable, the company has to build “tens of thousands” of these carbon dioxide collection stations….and find sources for hundreds of millions of kilograms of hydrogen.

The article also tells us that, if the hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using electricity produced by nuclear or renewable energy, then the resulting synthetic fuel would be “carbon neutral” except for the fact that the fuel will release carbon dioxide when it is burned, which seems rather disingenuous to me.

I have long believed that hydrogen will be the eventual answer to both the energy problem and the climate crisis, but it seems just plain crazy to me that anyone – much less Bill Gates – thinks that it is a good idea to mix carbon dioxide with hydrogen and then use that as a fuel.

Okay, this was published by Forbes, and it is obviously a fundraising attempt by the company, which claims that Bill Gates is supporting them, which only goes to prove that Bill Gates may not be as smart as he thinks he is.

I am sure that some bigger brained person than I am is going to explain to me how this is a great idea and how I am just a curmudgeonly old pessimistic contrarian (all of which is true) who doesn’t understand things as well as I think I do (which is also probably true) but this idea contradicts everything I ever learned about the conservation of energy…or chemistry for that matter.

This is another example in a continuing series of articles that demonstrate how Google injects questionable data into the public consciousness.  What do you think about that?