Add-ons can’t off-set Carbon Squandering – requiring change of economic order

From time to time we see euphoric press-releases about Carbon Capture Sequestration [CCS] or Re-Use of CO2 as an industrial resource insinuating burning carbonaceous matter could be continued under providing such counter measures. In reality such Carbon abatement attainments rarely address Resource Efficiency nor Carbon Efficiency going forward. Looking into a recent success message of CO2 mineralization into Sodium Bicarbonate at an Indian plant for example, one would find that the potential of such additions to CO2 emitting Carbon combustion or reformation could just accommodate fractions of a ‰ of annual fossil Carbon disposal into the atmosphere. And if on the other hand one would like to argue that it could make production of Sodium Bicarbonate more sustainable, I’d like to counter that CO2 off bio-chemical processes should increasingly become even more abundant.

During my term as a board member of Lower-Austria’s Advisory Council for tertiary education I engaged in the formation of a joint research institution of three major universities in Vienna (the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna [VetMed], the Vienna University of Technology [VUT] and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna [BOKU]) at IFA-Tulln to enable the collaboration of scientists with complementary background in the interdisciplinary areas of agro-biotechnology in plant and animal production, food- & feed science and (bio) analytics as well as biopolymers. Fifteen years later IFA employs 1,200 people engaging in the development of environmentally friendly enzyme catalyst based industrial bio-processes. Basically a valorization of organic residues, widespread just burned for scanty energy recoveries today, but generating just 30-50% of bio-gene CO2 compared to combustion. An ideal feedstock for all the achievements how to reuse Captured CO2 as a resource for industrial products.

Organic carbonaceous residues not fit for agriculturally usable compost contain about 8-10% of total annually explored fossil and bio-gene Carbon. For comparison, this is about 4 times the fossil Carbon used in global plastics manufacturing, leaving room for other industrial use of bio-gene waste Carbon unsuitable for reintroduction into our food chain via composting. Carbon Efficiency from combined bio-chemistry and physical Carbon Recycling from its remaining residues could outperform effectiveness and economics of all contemplated add-on abatement cost Technologies holding out to off-set combustion related Carbon disposal into the atmosphere. Understandably this is neither in the best interest of current energy sectors’ and fuel supply stakeholders, nor popular in waste management sectors having built up a profitable business model based on socializing their uncovered cost overruns at the expense of the public.

Basically this is a cynical system local politicians should have to account for its perpetuation in spite of Technical progresses having taken place. But since the citizens have to pay, loading Carbon lavishness with additional abatement cost is chosen as an easier way forward. And the press generally prefers to give them leeway, afraid to lose business if reporting about new possibilities to change the ongoing economic-systems. Even though we all should know that if COP21 Climate Protection Accord was taken serious, new approaches will prove indispensable at some point in time. All the monies invested in incremental tokenism in the meantime will then be impaired and lack for seizing really effective solutions.

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