The Conservative Broadcasting Corporation has just published a howler of an article which appears to be basically an uncritical reprint of some pro-industry schmozzling intended to suggest that climate change is a relatively minor problem easily solved with some minor biotech tweaks. The author for this piece of trash is Max Paris.
There’s a minor piece of good news: Pond Biofuels has partnered with St. Marys Cement and U.S. Steel Canada to attach algae systems to plant smokestacks. Some of the carbon emissions are then absorbed in the reproduction of the algae rather than being released into the atmosphere. As a result, emissions are cut. Slightly. This article doesn’t bother to tell us how much, which would seem to be a relevant factor. It does quote one industry representative announcing that “algae is the solution to climate change.”
Which is where Max Paris, with all the logical capacity of a 2-year-old, flies straight off into cuckooland:
In addition to keeping that CO2 out of the atmosphere, the algae can later be turned into biodiesel.
Apparently any old idiot can be a CBC reporter nowadays. I won’t belabour the point. I assume you’ve seen the obvious flaw in this scheme. Idiotically, Paris and some equally crackpot editor decided to title this article “CO2 emissions could feed algae biofuel bonanza,” as though as soon as we figure out one possible way to reduce our carbon emissions, the next thing to do will be to get them back out into the atmosphere again where they really belong.
It is nice to hear that we may be recycling some of our carbon emissions, but you can either fix the carbon in the ground, or you can burn the carbon-containing mass for energy. In the long term it’s one or the other, I’m afraid. Unless you think Pond Biofuels is going to miniaturize their technology and plug it into the exhaust system of every car, which I’m sure they’d love to do if it was technically feasible.
A fairly big if, there, which leads us to a second problem, one which Paris is at least dimly aware of: there are no perpetual motion machines. Not even algae. To make more algae, you need more light, not just more carbon dioxide. (And more water, which is less problematic.) To do this on an industrial scale, in a plant setting like this, you specifically need artificial light, especially in a balmy climate like Canada’s. Which means you need electricity. Which I guess you could get by burning your new biofuels, although it would kind of defeat the purpose. St. Marys says they’ll use solar panels.
We have a third problem, if Paris wants us to take seriously this notion that algae will solve climate change. Canada generates something like 15 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. Leaving aside the technical difficulties of how to apply Pond Biofuels’s impressive work to every other carbon emitting system, I leave it to you to decide where you’re going to put all this algae. Which, incidentally, will have to be in a suitably inaccessible location. Because algae dies. And then what happens to the carbon it’s “storing”?
I don’t know, but I’m sure Max Paris has an answer.Tweet