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2007-08 Seminars


Managing Emissions from Fossil Energy Resources

Klaus Lackner
Professor
Columbia University

Abstract
Without a revolution in energy infrastructures, the world faces a stark choice between economic growth and a healthy environment. The world must stop the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere while improving energy services to a growing world population which strives for a high standard of living. New energy technologies must reduce COČ2 emissions by more than an order of magnitude. Among the different options that range from nuclear energy to solar energy, only carbon capture and storage can maintain access to the vast resource base of fossil carbon. Fossil fuels by themselves are plentiful enough to satisfy energy demand for centuries, but the associated CO2 emissions would be intolerable. Technologies for CO2 capture at concentrated emission sources like power plants, steel plants or cement plants already exist. However, optimizing a new generation of efficient and clean power plants that could capture their CO2 and deliver it for safe and permanent carbon dioxide storage will promote dramatically different designs. Even after addressing the large concentrated sources of CO2, the remaining half of present-day CO2 emissions from distributed and mobile sources is too large to be ignored. Either one replaces carbonaceous energy carriers with carbon free energy carriers like hydrogen or electricity, or one must compensate for their CO2 emissions by capturing an equivalent amount of carbon from the environment. Biomass growth offers one such option; direct capture of carbon dioxide from the air provides another. Carbon capture and storage technologies enable a closure of the anthropogenic carbon cycle and thus provide one possible avenue to a world that is not limited by energy constraints.

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