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31 comments

Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

Posted February 19, 2008 12:00 AM by Sharkles

Do you think that people are getting a little out of hand when it comes to global warming? Do you feel that you shouldn't have to revert to driving a little car when your XL-truck or SUV is much more comfortable? Would you like people to stop telling you how bad the world is and how you're making it worse?

Well, good news: Scientists are working on a new technology that would remove gasoline from the air and revert it back into gasoline, keeping the carbon dioxide emissions from contributing to global warming (or "climate change", if you prefer).

Two scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory have proposed a plan to harvest fuel from the air and turn it back into gasoline for reuse. F. Jeffery Martin and William L. Kubic Jr. have named their proposed concept "Green Freedom". According to the laboratory, Green Freedom is a "low-risk transformational concept… for large-scale production of carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuels and organic chemicals from air and water." The current principal market for this project is fuel for vehicles and aircraft.

Achieving fuel extraction from the atmosphere will be done by using a new form of electrochemical separation. By integrating this process with existing technology, a new approach to producing fuel and organic chemicals has been developed. This new approach permits continued usage of existing infrastructure and is driven by carbon-neutral power.

Along with the new electrochemical separation processes, Green Freedom will use existing cooling towers from nuclear power plants (or possibly solar panels), along with carbon-capture equipment. The carbon-capture equipment will eliminate the need for additional structures to process large volumes of air. Since Green Freedom will use non-hazardous materials for feed and operation and has a small waste stream volume, the environmental impact is limited to the footprint of the existing plant.

A New Look at an Existing Idea

This is not the first time that this type of project has been proposed. Scientists George A. Olah and Klaus Lackner have suggested similar ideas. Dr. F. Jeffery Martin has claimed that he and his partner (Dr. William L. Kubic Jr.) have worked out their plan in more detail than preceding proposals. Still, many people remain skeptical as there are no synthetic fuel factories, or even a prototype built. To refute this skepticism, Dr. Martin says that "everything in the concept has been built, is operating or has a close cousin that is operating." Martin and Kubic plan on having a simple demonstration of this process within a year, with a larger prototype a couple years after that.

There are many obstacles that would have to be overcome before we see commercial gasoline-factory like the one proposed. In the meantime, a lot of attention is being spent on larger stationary sources (like power plants) where it would be possible to shift from carbon dioxide emitting fuels (coal and natural gas) to an alternative source like nuclear, solar, or wind. Another proposed strategy is to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions and pipe them underground where they won't affect the environment. Many people agree that using these measures to drastically reduce emissions isn't really plausible right now.

Three additional solutions have been proposed: hydrogen-powered fuel cells, electric cars, and biofuels. Each of these propositions has their positive and negative points:

  • Although hydrogen-powered cars don't emit carbon dioxide, energy is required to produce hydrogen; if the energy comes from coal-powered plants, then the problem remains. Hydrogen is also harder to store and transport, and would require a complete overhaul of the world's energy infrastructure.
  • Electric cars share a similar problem as they can push the carbon dioxide problem to power plants. Additionally, electric cars are limited by the number of miles that can be driven. Typically, these vehicles can range from tens of miles, rather than the hundreds of miles that can be traveled on a tank of gasoline.
  • Biofuels are produced from plants like corn, sugar cane, or switch grass. Plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. This balances out the CO2 emissions from when they're burned; however, biofuels are costly and require large amounts of farmland and farming resources for production.

Whether or not the Green Freedom concept is viable remains unknown. Hopefully, we will learn more soon. If possible, a lot of people would be a lot happier; it's frustrating to hear that our planet is dying. The possibility of it is definitely exciting. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel that is global warming?


Resources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/19/science/19carb.html?ref=science
http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/02/18/los-alamos-laboratory-gets-fuel-from-air/
http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuseaction/home.story/story_id/12554

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Guru

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#1

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/19/2008 11:21 PM

It's a catchy name but it sounds like a con. Removing CO2 from the air and converting it to a fuel would need lots of energy, so it's an energy storage method if it's anything at all.

The professors' names - cubic with a K, Galah (an Australian bird), Slacker, the reuse of nuke power plants cooling towers, no prototype or discussion of the chemistry involved. Still, it should get the more gullible alternative energy people going.

Solar powered machines that convert CO2 into fuel already exist, they're called "trees". ffeJ

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#12
In reply to #1

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/21/2008 4:05 PM

Let us do a complete Systems Engineering Analysis: 1) EVERYTHING is "an energy storage method", starting with oil.The time delay between photosynthesis and our burning of oil for fuel is about 85 million years, give or take x million years. Wood is "an energy storage method" with a shorter time delay, sometimes as little as one or two years from photosynthesis to energy release for our energy-using pleasure. Geothermal energy has a time delay of several billion years from when Mother Nature lit the fire at the core of the earth and today, as we use some of that energy. Nuke has a delay of 5 to 10 billion years, as Uranium was forged in the collapse of red giants going super-nova that long ago. Just "an energy storage method" with a really long time delay from creation date to "use before" date.

If we can all agree that the fundamental laws of physics are the basis for analyzing proposals, then the next step is to build the cost functions and calculate TCO.

Honest cost functions would be based on the rule of Best Practices. For instance, claiming that biofuels are wildly expensive, based on the worst implementations, and ignoring the good implementations, is disingenuous. Brazilian ethanol based on Brazilian sugar cane is a case in point - half the cost of American ethanol, 4 times smaller carbon footprint to manufacture, and don't tell me American kids would suffer if we reduced their sugar supply, please!

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/21/2008 4:14 PM

I originally read about this scheme in "NASA Tech Briefs" which I would consider to be a reputable publisher. According to them, the scientists were with Sandia labs which is quite reputable and I am sure is tied in with Los Alamos... just as Sandia Labs in Livermore CA is tied in with Lawrence Livermore Labs. In fact they are right across the street from each other. So this is NOT Joe Schlocknorten trying to gain funds for something that cannot possibly work. There is some pretty heavy brain power behind it.

Bill

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#2

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/19/2008 11:43 PM

Yes, the GW crowd is tending to the hysterical. There is a political drive by those who share certain beliefs to ram it down our throats in a panic-driven stampede, which will give them power, control and money.

I'm all for all kinds of alternatives to oil-based fuels because we are too dependent on OPEC, on Islamics who want to convert us by force and take away our freedom. Oil will continue to be used as a fuel, but we should do all we can to use alternatives. The use of plants to make fuel is good as long as it does not compete with food production. There are millions of acres of fallow farmland, unused because the farmer can't make money farming regular crops. Some careful genetic engineering could also make plants that produce even more fuel. I also think we should use coal to make synthetic fuels and oils. We should even produce more of our own oil by doing more drilling in the US, just to be more independent. Every barrel of fuel we make here is one less we buy from people who are too often our enemies. I hope these guys can actually do what they say and do not get crushed by the Big Money special interests.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 1:37 AM

Go easy, there's only one good oil field over there and it reached peak in 1986. As of this past December they were pumping in 7 million gallons of sea water daily to keep the pressure up enough to extract crude. When the oil is no longer economically feasible to extract about 750 days from now that area will get far less attention actually there won't be much reason to be there.

New industries will thrive if our culture continues business as usual.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 7:44 AM

I agree with you completely.

On the other hand I have noticed, during my morning commute, that although everybody likes to complain about the price of fuel and global warming there are very few who care to do anything about it as individuals. Why do I say that? After I got on the highway this morning I set my cruise control to ~60mph and drove the whole 25 miles at that speed. I passed two cars. Everybody else passed me; some by a rather amazing delta.

It would seem that if people actually gave a hoot they could very easily take their foot off the gas pedal a bit.

As far as extracting fuel from the air is concerned I remain skeptical.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 8:07 AM

Oh, I should point out that the speed limit was 55mph. Bad engineer, no biscuit!

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#9
In reply to #2

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 4:59 PM

Every barrel of fuel we make here is one less we buy from people who are too often our enemies.

Well said, Taganan.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 6:08 PM

Yeh, but also ..

Every barrel of fuel we don't use is one less we buy from people who are too often our enemies.

It's no good driving around in gas guzzlers shedding crocodile tears and blaming OPEC, the axis of evil, Al Gore, China, India, the far left, the extreme right, Moslems, Atheists, John Lennon, AAron Lennon and everyone else. (Whoops did I say that..... baaaad kitty)

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#5

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 8:02 AM

I would love to see it. I would also love to see Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, and a perpetual motion machine. It is time for people to wake up. Quit wasting limited resources.

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#7

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 9:49 AM

Climate change, also known (in left wing rhetoric) as "global warming" is caused by periodic increased solar activity. Engineers should not be fooled. It has happened over and over again in the history of the earth, before and after the invention of the internal combustion engine. It is a natural phenomenon that is irrelevant to the activities of man. Polar drillings show that CO2 increase follows temperature rise and is the result of hyper-stimulated photosynthesis. It is classical cause and effect.

But politicians are taking this natural phenomenon of increased solar activity to claim concomitant temperature rise is the fault of the internal combustion engine and other human activities. How convenient for the ascendancy of the state . . .

No matter how large the credentials, scientists cannot change the weather. Trying to diminish solar activity by casting man as villain is silly and, no matter how draconian the measure; diminishing the effects of solar activity is as difficult as changing the weather - impossible.

Instead, we should focus on moving rich people and their mansions away from the beach. Or maybe we should bring back medicine men and rain dancing – it would be less damaging than inducing farmers to plant corn for ethanol instead of wheat for food.

Heaven forbid we should try to develop our own natural resources. Certainly we should try to diminish our dependency on foreign oil and pollution (I am heavily involved with concentrated solar electricity generation R&D).

Don't fall for this power grab.

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 8:20 PM

Corneliusvansant, please a few moments and connect to the link listed.

www.aim.org/special-report/will-media-expose-global-warming-con-job/

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#8

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/20/2008 4:21 PM

I'm still waiting to be convinced:

A) Global warming is real

2) If A, above, is true, that mankind is responsible

III) if 2) above is true, that CO2 is more of a factor than water vapor

d) alternative fuels (hydrgen doesn't count, it's a conveyence method, not a fuel)would provide a net benefit.

Until then, I use my SUV to haul my boat and snowmbiles, which have 2-stroke motors.

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#14

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/23/2008 2:28 PM

Right up there with solar activity is the efect of volcanism on the atmosphere. I read somewhere that 1 goodsize volcanic eruption puts more CO2 in the atmosphere than all the cars that ever were, are or will be and that there are about 1700 active volcanos around the world at this time. The very arogance of us to think we make such a hill-o-beans on a global scale.

That said; as a fairly stingy person myself, I am always going to look for the most cost effective way to live. I think harnessing some sort of "free" energy is a given. Unfortunately there is always some sort of infrastructure needed to harvest this "free" energy. So as has been stated before; a cost/benefit analysis should be done for every harvesting scheme.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/24/2008 10:47 AM

Hi Shadetree - very good point about CO2 from volcanoes. It seems like we need to educate a whole bunch of smarter climate scientists, who could develop some better theories, build some accurate computer models that include all relevant variables. And then getting enough start-up data points would also be a challenge. We don't have enough data now to start a computer run, even if we did have the theory down and a fast enough supercomputer. As a part-time college instructor, I always encourage my best students to consider careers as Environmental Scientists, in the hope that the next batch of Phd's in Climatology will be smarter and better educated than the previous bunch. Then we could begin to make some scientificly valid predictions.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/24/2008 3:14 PM

Tom,

Thats refreshing, especially coming from someone in the education business (or at least having one foot in). From my point of view Enviromentalism and Climatology are not necessarily the same. It apears to me that the adherants to the former are more like other religionists; having a belief in something not proven as a scientific fact. In fact I will go so far as to say that there are a number of pseudo-sciences out there masquerading as science. I will stop there and wait for feedback on that.

On another aspect, however, I must state my view. I believe students must first be taught HOW to learn. No matter how learned the professor is, he or she can be wrong. Critical thinking is a must for true learning and will bring the student closer to what should be the true objective of schooling, WISDOM.

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#17
In reply to #14

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 12:48 AM

Interesting about volcanoes. Remember the "Ozone Hole" (some journos were marketting it as the same thing as GW) and how it was over Antarctica where nobody lives much less sprays CFCs. Whenever scientists tried to interject that the real cause was the eruption of Mount Erebus they were pooh poohed until DuPont got its new "non ozone depleting" refrigerants up and running. Now depending on the agenda "they" either "saved the planet" or our evil has not yet gone.

I can't prove or disprove the "science" of GW The money trail is the one to watch. Who is benefitting? UN bureaucracy for sure, but until the vested interests (such as DuPont in the ozone hoax) are exposed it will maintain a life of its own.

If heavier than air gasses selectively migrate from the Northern Hemisphere to the South Pole and suddenly rise into the upper atmosphere (and be believed) then any shock story will run in the media.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 2:48 AM

It kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it, who the environmentalists "really" get thier pay from?

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 5:56 PM

Exactly

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 7:03 PM

Its more than just backing/pay

What is the agenda?

We know what Exxon's agenda is: making money!

Environmentalists have a range of motives/agendas

some want:

to roll back the clock to a time before man

promote animal rights to a level equal to humans

conserve wilderness absolutely

protect the land, sea & air

We need moderation, balance

We need to limit our impact, this does not mean remove or reverse our impact.

We need to pay attention & use our resources wisely.

We need to continue to develop & improve our methods for extracting & utilizing our energy resources.

We need to improve the efficency of our transportation systems. There are large gains to be made in the ways we move people, goods & energy!

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 7:31 PM

Garthh,

I'm not sure exactly where you're coming from: but I think I agree. Moderation in all things (Aristotle or Plato?). We do need to be way more conservative than we are (that's why I'm currently working on a wood-pellet powered car) but to make it a religion is just wrong. The nuts really come out of the woodwork these days basing thier beliefs on unproven facts and falling prey to anyone that can put out a convincing set of statistics. FOLLOW THE MONEY

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 8:47 PM

There are tinges of religious fervor on both ends of the spectrum.

where do you think the money will lead?

Which set of consequences [unintended or otherwise] could be the most detrimental?

Change will continue.

The forces on both sides have agendas & money.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/01/2008 9:14 PM

I don't really know where the money will lead but it's a catchy phrase isn't it. It looks to me, though, that it will probably lead back to someone or group of someones, who, through corporate cover have a degree of plausible deniability. I think that most seeming "conspiracies" are not that at all but something rather different. Someone has an idea that seems good or profitable at the time and, because they have money, are able to get the ball rolling in a particular direction. According to Newton, once an object (or in this case an idea) is set in motion it tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. Some of these ideas fall apart of their own weight (or lack thereof) but others gain some measure of popular support (warented or not). It is, I think, often a case of money attracting money, so that ideas which if given critical scrutiny would fail the test of reason go on to snowball, picking up all kinds of nuts and well meaning but missinformed people along the way. Remember "The Emporer's New Clothes".

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/02/2008 10:45 AM

Hi Garthh - how is the project comming along? Jay Leno (Tonight Show host) has a wood-pellet powered car - a Stanley Steamer. Its great to watch the car guys drive their funky old vehicles down to the old-style drive-in on a Sunday afternoon to show them off. When you get yours running, yo should send a picture of it to Jay - I bet he'll show it to everyone on his show. Cheers-

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/02/2008 1:33 PM

Moving @ the speed of business Slowly.

Waiting for the legal niceties to come together.

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/02/2008 2:27 PM

So Garthh,

I didn't know you were also working on a pellet powered vehicle. The business end of mine is still pretty much on paper and in my head. If you would like to see what I've got in mind I will share it. I had not intended to patent it as it pretty much relies on off the shelf stuff. But by the same token I dont want to step on anything you might be patenting. I never have been much of a businessman and have seen several of (what I thought were) my wacky ideas being introduced to the market by others.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/02/2008 3:40 PM

No shadetree,

not at all, I think tom was refering to Apix a colabrative design effort, feel free to join us PM me for more details.

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/4149

Pellets to make steam?

or pellets to feed the hamsters, to run & make electricity [only kidding]

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#28
In reply to #21

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

03/02/2008 11:17 PM

Shadetree - I have an idea that you are welcome to use all or part of - e-mail beesidemeusa@yahoo.co.uk and ask about steam-electric hybrid. Would like to see what you are working on since I can't build anything.

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#31
In reply to #17

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/09/2010 10:52 PM

It is sometimes stated that since CFC molecules are much heavier than nitrogen or oxygen, they cannot reach the stratosphere in significant quantities.(1) But atmospheric gases are not sorted by weight; the forces of wind (turbulence) are strong enough to fully intermix gases in the atmosphere. CFCs are heavier than air, but just like argon, krypton and other heavy gases with a long lifetime, they are uniformly distributed throughout the turbosphere and reach the upper atmosphere.(2) CFCs are well mixed in the troposphere and the stratosphere. The reason the ozone hole occurs above Antarctica is not because there are more CFCs there but because the low temperatures due to the polar vortex allow polar stratospheric clouds to form.(3) There have been anomalous discoveries of significant, serious, localized "holes" above other parts of the globe.(4) REFERENCES: (1): Phoenix News—FREON EASY (2): FAQ, part I, section 1.3. (3): ozone-depletion FAQ, Antarctic (4): ozone hole

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#30
In reply to #14

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

02/09/2010 10:23 PM

Volcanic eruptions can enhance global warming by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. However, a far greater amount of CO2 is contributed to the atmosphere by human activities each year than by volcanic eruptions. T.M.Gerlach (1991, American Geophysical Union) notes that human-made CO2 exceeds the estimated global release of CO2 from volcanoes by at least 150 times.

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#29

Re: Green Freedom: Keeping Gas in Your Tank for Another 50 Years

09/14/2008 4:36 PM

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

First of all, let me say that I have to take issue with some of the terms used in the original blog. The scientists who came up with the Green Freedom concept are not trying to "extract fuel from the air" they are simply the latest who are exploring the economics of synthesizing hydrocarbon fuels from non-traditional sources.

The green freedom process starts with the basic thesis that hydrocarbon fuels are not fuels in and of themselves but simply a mechanism for energy storage. They are a remarkably good one too. While solar voltaic cells do make it possible to drive a glorified shopping cart across Australia at the thrilling speed of twenty miles an hour, a slightly more concentrated form of power is necessary to punch a fighter jet through the air at twice the speed of sound. Right now, we know of nothing other than liquid hydrocarbons that can accomplish many of the energy tasks we undertake.

For those who may remember, synthetic fuels or "Syn-fuels" were all the rage in the 1970s during the last so-called energy crisis. Untold scads of federal largesse were directed toward the goal of somehow getting the yoke of imported oil off our collective necks (sound familiar?). My father was part of a research group at Oak Ridge, Tennessee that was working on removing the ash from liquefied coal. Much of this work was based on the old World War II German processes that converted coal and natural gas to gasoline and diesel fuel.

The prospect of converting nuclear energy to some more widely usable form is not all that new either. When I was in high school, the former director of the Oak Ridge National Lab, Alvin Weinberg, was at my parents house having supper and commented on an idea of putting a large number of nuclear power plants in southern Texas on the gulf coast. The facility would have provided electricity for the immediate area but more importantly would have generated hydrogen by electrolysis of the water in the Gulf of Mexico. The fresh water by-product would have been used to cut demand on the Rio Grande River and the hydrogen would have been put into the existing natural gas and oil pipeline system to be burned at coal and gas fired power plants all over the nation. The only problem was that diatomic hydrogen gas was difficult to pipe for long distances because it leaked so badly; even leaking through the metal pipes due to the small size of the H2 molecule. Because of that problem, he concluded, the whole thing was just an intellectual exercise.

This idea stuck with me for years until during an organic synthesis class in college we started discussing the Fischer-Tropsch process which converts hydrogen and carbon dioxide to methane. After the class I told the professor about Dr Weinberg's idea and asked why such a plan wouldn't work if they hydrogen were simply converted to methane at the site of generation. He answered in one work: economics. It was certainly possible to make methane and higher hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen but why do it since it was cheaper to get it out of holes in the ground? As I recall he said something like "oil would have to be over $100 a barrel for that sort of plan to be practical".

Well, here we are. There are some "new" aspects to synthesis of higher order hydrocarbons that the folks at Los Alamos have added. Electrolysis of water is more efficient due to new construction of electrodes. The clean-coal research has come up with some interesting membranes that concentrate carbon dioxide. The clean-coal folks want to use it for sequestering CO2 from stack gasses but it could be just as easily used to concentrate your feed stream for a synthesis reaction. The slickest idea the Los Alamos guys have come up with is using a cooling tower as the mechanism for moving literally cubic miles of air through your CO2 collection system.

They're right. This is not some back of the matchbook scam. The science is all real. It will work. The only question is the same one I got the answer to when I was in college; is it economically feasible? Oil is certainly over $100 a barrel and not going down any time soon. Martin and Kubic estimate the process would be profitable when gas is in the $4 - $5 a gallon range. We're pretty darn close. T. Boone Pickins wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over then next ten years to put windmills all over the Midwest. Even considering government inefficiency, for a very small fraction of that money and in less time we could build one or two green freedom plants to see how well they worked. Why not?

Doctor Bill

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