Monday, May 19, 2008

A really very stupid idea

There are people who think a great way to sequester carbon is to bury trees underground. Don't laugh! They are serious.

Here is a better idea: The United States generates more than half of our electricity through the use of coal-fired generators (lots of other countries do this too--yes, I am looking at you China--though in fairness, they are pursuing atomic power quite vigorously ). If we were to build atomic power plants to make our electricity, then we wouldn't have to burn as much coal. The real benefit is that the coal is already in the ground. We wouldn't have to go to the trouble of putting it there!

I am a big fan of the Molten Salt, Thorium cycle concept, but almost any design would have obvious advantages over planting trees; deep underground.

Here is another better idea: There is a lot of carbon in our trash. We mostly already put this stuff into landfills. What we need to do is slightly modify how we landfill to prevent decomposition, thus the carbon will remain sequestered. I think this would just involve burying trash deeper, so as to make an anaerobic environment for it. Given that we are already disposing of trash, it would be a lot cheaper to slightly modify our practices than it would be to grow trees, chop them down, transport them to a pit and then bury them.


Anonymous said...

Burying carbon can also lead to big problems with groundwater interactions. Aquifers may be affected. On landfills in general - 90% of what we discard of in landfills probably can and should be recycled (and not incinerated!. How primitive a society are we to "dig a hole, bury, and forget"... We do not have the leadership, vast numbers of machinery, and the infrastructure set up to accomplish this simple task. The return on investment with profit is attainable. Very simple, inmates push buttons all day to run machines and earn candy bars and TV priveleges. Plastics brought in are converted to parkbenches and sold for profit. Food scraps are composted. Cardboard, paint, metal - recycled etc... The consumer must have an easy system and space to drop off items at. On nuclear - this is the answer. The French generate a majority of their power from smaller, modern reactors. Wind (especially), Geothermal, and Solar should be on or incorporated in every building! The Trustees of the Reservations organization in Leominster built a "green" building 2 years ago and they are generating more power than consuming on some days, selling back electricity into the grid.

dbp said...

Thanks for the comment:

I think that modern landfills feature a clay liner such that liquid cannot leach into the groundwater. This is very important as people throw out lots of toxic stuff.

My post did not opine on the wisdome of carbon sequestration, just that if it was to be done, how to do it most efficiently. Most trash contains carbon in the form of cellulose (paper) or hydrocarbons (plastic), so entombing it would take it out of circulation--so to speak.

Anonymous said...

You are forgetting a better option. CONSERVATION.

dbp said...

Conservation is all well and good. I am in favor of it, but it cannot provide new energy nor can it take carbon out of circulation. It can help, but it cannot be a total solution by itself.