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Researchers look to combine advantages of all energy types - even oil, gas and coal - to determine a beneficial energy future

Rice University researchers have developed a Green Carbon Center. The center evaluates the Earth's energy future by showing the advantages of all energy sources like oil, coal, gas, biomass, solar, geothermal and wind, and also looks for ways to put carbon dioxide to good use

James Tour, lead author of the study and professor of mechanical engineering, materials science and computer science at Rice University, along with Vicki Colvin, Rice University's Pitzer- Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry, and Carter Kittrell, a research scientist at Rice University, have created a Green Carbon Center as a "think tank" for the future of energy. They plan to focus on the development of clean energy by assessing the benefits of all types of energy and by recycling carbon dioxide into useful products. 

"Eighty-five percent of our country's energy comes from fossil fuels, and Houston is the world capital of the industry that makes and produces and transports those fossil fuels to all of us," said Colvin. "So we are in a unique position as the leading university in Texas to transform that industry, to develop it in a green way, to make it sustainable and to teach people that just because it's carbon doesn't mean it has an environmental consequence, but it can in fact help us transition to a renewable energy economy of the future."

The main goal is to make carbon dioxide a useful material. To do this, researchers would like to partner with energy companies of all sorts - oil, coal, wind, solar, etc. - to find ways to make carbon dioxide a "profitable resource."

"We want to say to the oil and gas and coal companies that even as we go to renewable forms of energy, we need you," said Tour. "We need oil for all of our manufacturable products - plastics and fibers and building materials. We need coal for syngas and for the manufacture of chemical compounds. And we need natural gas to provide energy at least into the next century, as well as for the production of hydrogen."

While cleaner energy through a hydrogen-based energy economy is the ideal future of energy, researchers noted that carbon-based energy will still be needed, especially since American jobs depend on the drilling and distribution of these fossil fuels. 

To keep carbon-based energy around without its harmful effects, Tour, Colvin and Kittrell studied the separation of carbon dioxide from hydrogen through steam methane reformation, where carbon dioxide could be reused as a basic feedstock for chemicals or momentarily sequestered in tapped-out oil wells. 

"It costs a lot to capture carbon dioxide and pump it underground, and that can negate the advantages of sequestration," said Tour. "But solar and wind power could replace coal-fired boilers to compress and transport carbon dioxide."

Other ways in which carbon could become useful is to compress and liquify it to replace water when enhancing oil and gas recovery. Also, carbon could potentially replace harmful chlorocarbons as a refrigerant in the dry cleaning business. 

This study was published Oct. 22 in Nature Materials.

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Let's do some research!
By integr8d on 10/25/2010 12:09:32 PM , Rating: 2
Would be neat if you would do a piece on UN: Agenda 21. Would be neat if you would explore how sustainable development is currently implemented at the federal, state and every local level. Would be neat if you'd go into the history of Agenda 21 and explain why George Bush Sr. signed America up to it (not a Democrat?). Wrap it up by fleshing out, in your best guess, why both parties appear to be working together on the green agenda which will directly control all of our lives.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the ESD Toolkit... "Generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes. In this case, more education increases the threat to sustainability."

RE: Let's do some research!
By Solandri on 10/25/2010 3:31:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the ESD Toolkit... "Generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes. In this case, more education increases the threat to sustainability."

That's an incredibly superficial and oversimplistic (time-independent) analysis of the problem of overconsumption. Yes, industrialization and greater education are strongly correlated with greater consumption. But they're also strongly correlated with declining birth rates. Many industrialized countries are even experiencing negative population growth - they are shrinking in population. In contrast, almost the entirety of the "exploding" population of the world is centered on less developed countries:

You can put it this way: The amount of energy and resources that developed countries are consuming is pretty much at or near peak. Yes it's high, but it's not growing much per capita and the population is barely growing. The vast majority of increases in resource consumption are going to come from 3rd world countries as they start to develop. The key to preventing an explosion in consumption lies with arresting the exponential population growth of undeveloped countries.

Population is exploding there because the most easily obtained productivity asset there is labor. Have more kids and you have more people to help work on your farm. Counters to that come from education (so the economy can branch out into jobs which don't require menial labor), birth control (so one can get nooky without having kids), and economic opportunity (so one can live comfortably without feeling a need for more labor).

Knocking the industrialized world back to pre-industrialized economic standards is the worst thing you could do to counter the overconsumption problem. Yes the consumption per capita would go down, but the exponential population growth that comes with a pre-industrialized society would quickly overwhelm any gains you made on that front.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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