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Hur Bill Gates tänker befria planeten från koldioxid

 

Det är en enkel idé: ta bort koldioxid från luften och använd den för att producera bränsle som är kolneutralt. Men kan det fungera i industriell skala?

Det är inte så mycket att titta på, men blandningen av rör, pumpar, tankar, reaktorer, skorstenar och kanaler på en skräpig industrianläggning utanför skogshuggarstaden Squamish i västra Kanada skulle kunna ge en lösning för att stoppa världen från att tippa över i accelererande klimatförändringar genom att kraftigt minska användningen av konventionella bränslen.

Det kan också ge Harvards superstar fysiker David Keith, Microsoftgrundaren Bill Gates och oljesandsmagnaten Norman Murray Edwards mer pengar än de någonsin kunnat drömma om.

Tanken är grandios, men enkel: Ta bort kolet i den globala ekonomin genom att extrahera koldioxid (CO2) direkt från luften med hjälp av rader av jättefläktar och en patenterad kemisk metod, och använd sedan gasen för att göra ren, kolneutral syntetisk diesel och bensin för att driva världens fartyg, flygplan och lastbilar.

Förhoppningen är att kombinationen av direktavskiljning (DAC), vattenelektrolys och bränslesyntes som idag används för att producera flytande kolvätebränslen kan utvecklas för att fungera i global skala. Detta till en kostnad som är lite högre än att extrahera och sälja fossilt bränsle idag. Detta skulle revolutionera världens transportindustri, som står för nästan en tredjedel av de totala koldioxidutsläppen. Det skulle kunna liknas vid en mekaniserad fotosyntes.

Den enskilda tekniken är kanske inte ny, men kombinationen i industriell skala skulle vara banbrytande. Carbon Engineering, företaget som startades 2009 av den ledande geoingenjören David Keith, med pengar från Gates och Murray, har byggt en prototypanläggning. Där har man  installerat stora fläktar och har extraherat cirka ett ton ren koldioxid varje dag i ett år. För närvarande släpps den tillbaka i luften.

Achilleshälen för alla s.k. negativa utsläppstekniker är kostnaden. Myndigheterna utgår dock från att de på sikt kommer att bli ekonomiskt lönsamma. Men det främsta hoppet för företagen som sysslar med den här tekniken är att få ner priset till 100 dollar per ton från nuvarande 600 dollar. Även om det lyckas, för att ta bort bara 1% av de globala utsläppen, skulle kostnaden bli cirka 400 miljarder dollar om året. Detta skulle behöva pågå kontinuerligt till denna kostnad, eftersom det skulle kosta ytterligare pengar att lagra koldioxid permanent.

Kritikerna hävdar att den här teknologin inte är möjlig att tillämpa i stor skala. Det är därför mycket klokare att från början inte använda fossila bränslen och därmed inte producera utsläppen överhuvudtaget, än att söka efter lösningar i slutet av kedjan. Det säger professor Kevin Anderson, biträdande chef för Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research och Glen Peters, forskningsdirektör vid Centrum för Internationell Klimatforskning (Cicero) i Norge.

I en nyligen publicerad artikel i tidskriften Science säger de två klimatforskarna att de inte motsätter sig forskning om negativ utsläppsteknik. Däremot menar de att de måste ske med en klar insikt om att detta inte kommer att kunna tillämpas i stor skala. Att inte erkänna detta vore ett ”oacceptabelt moraliskt risktagande”.

Läs hela artikeln i The Guardian.

 

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