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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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Green carbon? Carbon = Life
By Schrag4 on 10/25/2010 1:13:22 PM , Rating: 5
The main goal is to make carbon dioxide a useful material.

Without it we would all be dead. I'd say it's pretty darned useful already.

RE: Green carbon? Carbon = Life
By AlexWade on 10/25/2010 1:18:55 PM , Rating: 2
That is what I was thinking! Why do greenhouse pump in extra CO2? Because it makes plants grow faster. And the last time I check, all life is carbon based.

RE: Green carbon? Carbon = Life
By mephit13 on 10/26/2010 10:20:51 AM , Rating: 2
And you need water to survive, heck, you're mostly made of water. Let's put you in a room filled with nothing but water and see what happens.

RE: Green carbon? Carbon = Life
By Schrag4 on 10/27/2010 10:31:26 AM , Rating: 2
Burning all oil/coal would probably only result in a 0.5% CO2 concentration. We would never end up with an atmostphere "filled with nothing but" CO2. You're not being very intellectually honest with your little room-full-of-water comparison.

RE: Green carbon? Carbon = Life
By kattanna on 10/26/2010 12:18:24 PM , Rating: 2
"green carbon" only makes sense when you first understand that

green = $$$

and nothing else.

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.

Try simple uses
By rikulus on 10/25/2010 12:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
I think any "green" solution to carbon dioxide that involves liquefying it is almost always a non starter... the energy needed to compress it just means using more energy being used. Of course, we do need liquid CO2 for various things, so maybe starting with a concentrated source (like a power plant) would have some benefit.

If the CO2 can be reasonably well swept of toxins, why not build huge greenhouses around power plants and let the plants enjoy a higher CO2 atmosphere, and use waste heat from the power plant in colder climates. Not that it will eliminate the problem of taking carbon out of the ground, but it seems like it would be mutually beneficial. And would at least cut down on greenhouses that need to burn their own heat sources. I think industries working together like this will be important in the future, and some of it is happening today with land fill methane being reused, etc.

By AssBall on 10/25/2010 1:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
Green green green, everything has to be green. I'm getting sick of it. Last I checked carbon was black. Well, except for this:


By Qapa on 10/25/2010 5:03:23 PM , Rating: 2
"While cleaner energy through a hydrogen-based energy economy is the ideal future of energy"

What the hell?!

Not sure if this is in the original or just made up by the author of this post/news here, but this is simply false and ridiculous!

Hydrogen is only ideal for the companies that have money invested in it!!

Electricity is the one that is ideal, and the it can be produced by a multitude of different, ever increasing percentage of renewable energy sources - solar, wind, etc.

Going from gas, oil, to hydrogen would be absolutely ridiculous, in terms of effort and money spend creating a whole new distribution infrastructure, which then needs to have people to keep distributing it (trucks of it).

Going to electricity, you can get the electricity in whatever fashion is most appropriate for a given place, and then just distribute it around.

And for those that say: "Oh but in the US the grid can handle more power". You'd need to upgrade it anyway, so just start planning that today!! You'll save money in the long run!! Not to mention that it is not necessarily a problem in other countries!!

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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