The Digital Future
5:00 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Let's turn carbon emissions into something useful

The average coal-fired power plant spews out more than a million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Wouldn't it be great if that greenhouse gas could be put to good use?

On this month's edition of The Digital Future, Strategic News Service Publisher Mark Anderson tells KPLU's Dave Meyer that all that carbon could be used to make fuel, chemicals and other products.

Last week, Mark held his Future in Review (FiRe) technology conference in Laguna Beach, California. The annual event is a brainstorming session for some of the brightest minds on the planet. 

One of the ideas discussed at FiRe is what Mark calls "twinning": pairing up major carbon emitters (such as coal-fired power plants) with facilities that can manufacture something out of those emissions.

The key, says Mark, is to give economic value to CO2, rather than treating it as garbage.

A number of companies are developing the technology needed to take carbon emissions and turn them into profits. Mark points to Heliae as an example.

Heliae uses algae to feed on CO2 emissions. The company says its algae can be used to produce food, chemicals, and even jet fuel.

Mark can see a future where all jet fuel is derived from CO2 emissions at power plants.

Instead of arguing about the environment impact of carbon emissions, and the cost of reducing them, companies can instead view their CO2 emissions as a valuable resource. Power plants will have a profit motive for keeping their carbon out of the air.

Mark says this could turn out to be a real win/win scenario.