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Keeping you informed about TecEco sustainability projects. Issue 73, October 28th, 2007
Some sections of the press have recently described the resistance to carbon constraint thus. Japan faltering. Developing Countries reluctant to commit. Canada won’t make it. Personal carbon budgets in the UK. De-carbonising the economy.
The current direction is driven by politics rather than economics, contemplates an unreal virtual world where carbon has a legal cost rather than a real value and restraint is the only process understood which one day may evolve to policing, a self appointed global carbon cop and other horrifying scenarios.
It is essential that within a few years externalities are a normalised cost of doing business. This can be achieved by either by a politically driven legal price (the current "virtual world" direction) or by new technical paradigms that redefines externalities such as CO2 as resources (as is the case with Gaia Engineering, our preferred direction.) Either way the hope is that markets then work to substantially reduce these externalities. The alternative is a global police force to enforce restrictive change because change we must. There are two choices - Brace yourself or take action now to avoid such a future.
Of the choices a world in which carbon has a real value is obviously the most desirable as real resources can contribute real internal as well as external value compared to virtual ones which provide only external value. There key is to develop technical paradigms which follow Pilzer's law converting externalities such as CO2 (a waste) to "internal" resources. That is to say to bring externalities to account as real inputs to the global economy without artificial virtual world pricing schemes.
There is far too much focus on an emerging virtual construct of a new world economy in which carbon has a price set by governments and backed by law. This will reduce externalities such as carbon pollution but not benefit economies as carbon in this world is not a resource. Fortunately there is an alternative in which carbon is a resource. In the Gaia Engineering paradigm not only are externalities costed and thus subdued but they act as inputs for a more vibrant global economy.
TecEco contemplate atmospheric CO2 as a major input for the production of man made carbonates and in this paradigm achieve massive sequestration. What the UN and government do not understand is that carbon in the air can be balanced by invoking technical paradigms in which the gas is an important input resource. What is important is how much carbon there is in the air, not how much we produce. This lesson comes from nature not economists or thermodynamics practitioners and must be understood because only in this way can we make the removal of CO2 a profitable business that does not rely on caps or taxes. We can make the removal of CO2 part of making a living rather than a virtual economic construct to deal with externalities.
There are some 7,000 gigatons (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons) of coal left on the planet and its use for the production of energy is increasing as a result of a relentless increase in world demand, large price increases for natural gas, growing concern about the security of supply of imported energy and indecision about nuclear power. This growth is taking place in many countries, but by far the most important is escalating demand in China, India and other developing countries such as Argentina and Brazil as well as continued strong demand in the USA.
This growth in coal consumption is too strong to turn around by constraint alone. We also need another more easily implemented strategy based on profitable use. TecEco envisage carbon contributing to the robustness of economies and not as a cost.
The hope is that by "internalising" CO2, businesses will harness new technologies and innovations such as ours that radically alter the flow of matter on the planet in favour of reducing emissions and increasing sequestration and for that matter solving many other environmental problems as well. TecEco is a lead company in this new and emerging market with amazing technologies that will shift the paradigm in favour of using man made carbonates and other wastes.
Change has never been a negative force in economies. On the contrary change will create and drive new business opportunities with new risks. Businesses must act now to fit into this new world and the smart way to do this is to identify opportunities for profit based on mitigation and offsets. Embracing TecEco and Gaia Engineering technical paradigms and their enormous capacity to generate carbon credits would have a huge multiplier affect on the problem of carbon change.
In Australia carbon emissions trading is likely to be introduced by 2010 or 2011. So far few details have been released as to how that trading will be conducted, what emissions targets will be set or which sectors may get favourable treatment.
There is no doubt that the benefits of early introduction in building and construction could be huge if properly implemented however there are many uncertainties and difficulties to be addressed that this short article will canvas
The reason why making sure carbon trading is implemented in the building and construction arena quickly is that there is much to easily be gained at relatively low cost through materials innovation and substitution as well as good design.
According to the research group researchandmarkets “Buildings make a large contribution to the energy consumption of a country. It is estimated that, of the total energy generated in the industrialised world, 40% of it is used in the construction and operation of residential, public, and commercial buildings. Approximately one third of primary energy world-wide is consumed in non-industrial buildings such as dwellings, offices, hospitals, and schools where it is utilised for space heating and cooling, lighting and the operation of appliances. In the European Union (EU), energy consumption for buildings-related services accounts for between 33% and 40% of total EU energy consumption. Energy used for heating, lighting and powering buildings can account for up to half of a country’s total energy consumption. In an industrial economy domestic water heating can account for over 5% of total energy use, domestic space heating up to 20% and appliances and lighting up to 30%. In terms of the total energy end use, consumption of energy in the building sector is comparable to that used in the entire transport sector.”
The industry has a complex supply chain in which double counting could occur. To get over this it has been suggested by Blair Freeman, technical manager for Fletcher Insulation in Victoria at an AASMIC workshop, that a system similar to GST could be implemented with carbon assessments canceling each other out on the way up or down the supply and waste chains to the points of greatest carbon concentration.
Such a system would ensure that designers, engineers, builders and end user all benefit from future carbon credits attributed to their input into sustainable design, materials use and construction.
To add further to the difficulties of implementing a fair system there is more than one source of potential credits in building and construction. Not only do materials have embodied energies and emissions. The way they are used by designers contributes to reductions in net emissions. As Kyoto is quite specific about not double counting careful analysis is required of the two contributions. Are reductions that emanate from good design are a double count because they represent a use of a material that itself has embodied energies and emissions? In my view the inclusion of both types of credit is essential and does not result in double counting. I suspect however that many will not understand that design is a contribution of intellectual property and not therefore a material and thus distinctly different.
Lifetime energy reductions through good design is very important however what materials are chosen by designers have a maintenance consequence that must not be forgotten. Materials a on the other hand are very important as not only do they have process and chemical releases associated with them, they contribute to what design can achieve.
What is important is that a system is introduced and introduced quickly because of the potentially huge multiplier effects and shear size of the industry and the easily obtainable emissions reductions and sequestration that is possible. The system will not be necessarily technically right in all scenarios but difficulties can be resolved later. To avoid a morass of expensive and gobbledygook being evolved by consultants it is not good enough for government to stand back and let the consultants rule. Government should set the rules and they should be simple enough for all in the industry to take advantage of to push the agenda for greener, better buildings and materials and huge reductions in net emissions.
Alan Clark is an artist and landscaper from WA and has recently completed a Gecko with a TecEco Tec-Cement formulation.
According to Alan "For the Gecko I used a Tec cement mix, basically 3:1 sand, Portland cement, with 15% MgO , 10% Boral fly ash and 5% clinoptilolite. (the magnesia and clinoptilolite came from TecEco as did the basic formulation) Chopped glass and steel fibre were also added to the wet mix. The sand used was a yellow clean fairly coarse typical WA sand."
Readers - please notice the crack free smooth finish!
According to Alan "At last, (I) lifted the gecko out of the studio and installed it at its final resting place. Its final weight was about 700kg. It was acid stained and coated with an anti graffiti coating. It survived the lift and transport without cracking, so I must have done something right. Thanks for your help with the Tec Cement."
For many years I have sought a comprehensive study on global waste. A study that goes a long way towards addressing this need was released in Paris on September 26, 2006 when Veolia Environmental Services and CyclOpe, the leading European research institute for the raw materials and commodities markets, announced the publication of: “From Waste to Resource: 2006 World Waste Survey”.
The 240-page survey, published by Editions Economica in Paris, whilst not exhaustive, offers the most complete picture to date of the global waste economy, from collection through to recovery and recycling. It was researched, compiled and written by Elisabeth Lacoste, an agronomist with a doctorate in economics, and Philippe Chalmin, a professor at the University Paris-Dauphine and President of CyclOpe. Their work incorporated contributions from Veolia Environmental Services experts in 35 countries as part of this first and on-going study.
The quantity of waste collected worldwide is estimated by the authors at a minimum of 2.5 billion metric tons. Each year the world produces as much as waste as it does grain (2 billion metric tons) and steel (1 billion metric tons). Through effective and efficient resource recovery, our global waste production offers the potential for equivalent amounts of energy, organic and secondary raw material resources. The report stressed that waste utilisation is an important challenge for the future. The value of the municipal waste market, in OECD countries is estimated at around $USD 120 billion.
The report gives three alternatives for wastes:
Where the report may lack is that it fails to point out our alternative which is to not only recycle based on chemical composition which is what is mostly done today but to use wastes in composites for their physical property as well.
The authors commendably deem it critical that changes in and the future of the waste management economy needs to be viewed as part of the general issue of resource scarcity. They declare that the human activities of our modern societies are disturbing the planet’s ecological balances, creating pollution and threatening the quality and renewal of our natural resources. To the reports credit, it envisages turning waste into a resource, by devising new reclamation methods as a major sustainable development goal.
Every year humans send about 8 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Reducing fossil fuel use and deforestation can help cut down those emissions, but scientists are also investigating ways to soak up CO2 on a large scale.
One new idea involves building water treatment plants that would enhance the ocean's natural ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unlike other methods that propose burying carbon underground or deep in the ocean, this plan mimics natural geo chemical reactions that occur between rocks and the ocean but at a much faster rate.
"If you think about global warming, you can do one of three things: You can decrease emissions of CO2; you can do nothing and adapt to whatever changes result; or you can do some kind of large-scale geo-engineering project that would get at the problem through the back door," said Kurt Zenz House, a Ph.D. candidate in earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University.
House and his team are publishing their research in the December 15 issue of the American Chemical Society's journal, Environmental Science & Technology.
To understand how the process works, think of the ocean as a large bucket of saltwater, said House. In other words, imagine a mixture of water (two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen) and salt (one sodium and one chlorine molecule). That solution has a particular pH ("potential of hydrogen") level that describes its acidity or alkalinity.
CO2 is an acid and naturally dissolves in the ocean. The overabundance of CO2 in the atmosphere has decreased the pH level of the ocean, making the water unnaturally acidic. The acid breaks down calcium in the water, which can cause coral reefs and organisms that make shells to become vulnerable or even die.
What House and his team propose is a plan to increase the ocean's pH level -- make it more alkaline -- so that it can better soak up excess CO2.
It would occur at a water treatment plant where first, an electrical current would pass through the saltwater, splitting the water and salt molecules apart. When they recombined, they would make sodium hydroxide, which is not acidic, and hydrochloric acid, which is, of course, an acid.
But that acid can be neutralized, using a process that is similar to what naturally occurs in nature. It turns out that when the magnesium, silicon and oxygen in volcanic rock come into contact with seawater, a chemical reaction occurs that results in plain water and magnesium chloride salt -- neither of which are acidic.
The idea is that after the seawater is electrified, it would be mixed with volcanic rocks. The resulting ocean water would not contain any acid. In fact, it would have a high pH level, making it better able to absorb the CO2.
According to the plan, about 100 ocean treatment plants could reduce emissions by 15 percent over several years. About 700 plants could offset all CO2 emissions.
"I like the idea of pulling CO2 out of the air," said David Archer, professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago. But, he added, "If the ultimate strategy is to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere, it's hard to image that that's the most efficient way. It seems easier to capture it at coal plants, where it's in a concentrated form."
With 160 new coal-fired plants in the planning stages in the United States alone, Archer points out that something has to be done.
House admits that the plan has a way to go before it can be implemented. "There's a lot of engineering that needs to be worked out before any pilot plant could be built," he said.
For example, sea water is comprised of much more than simple water and salt. It contains organic material, magnesium, and calcium that would make the separation much more complicated.
But, he added, "If it happens that we are unable to reduce emissions at all and climate change ends up being far worse than we thought, then a technology like this could serve as a safety valve."
What House and his team propose is a plan to increase the ocean's pH level. This is a large scale after the event fix. A second tier approach. It is true that when you are knee deep in crocodiles it is hard to remember the objective is to drain the swamp and House an the rest of the Harvard team seem to have fallen into this kind of trap. The objective of geo technical engineering should be to directly get the CO2 out of the air, not fiddle with the sea so it can better remove it as there a many possible unforeseen consequences of such a large scale uncontrolled open system experiment in the oceanic commons. For example - oceans mix very slowly and there will therefore be considerable variation in pH as a result of this anthropogenic interference that will severally affect all sea life.
Mass-energy can neither be created nor destroyed. so considering some 97% of the worlds energy is fossil fuel based lots of possibly coal fired power stations are going to have to be built to supply the electricity required which would probably compound the problem of excess CO2 in the air as much as it is fixed by electrolytic alkalisation of the oceans thereby theoretically possibly increasing their ability to take up the gas.
House is correct however when he points out that a large "large-scale geo-engineering project" is required. To succeed any large scale process to engineer the earth's climate must be potentially profitable otherwise the fights over who will foot the bill will produce more CO2 than that potentially sequestered. The word profitable is noticeably missing in House's proposal.