Weve Discovered How to Turn Carbon Dioxide into Booze

first_img Researchers Transform CO2 Into Liquid FuelCoca-Cola Uses Captured Carbon Dioxide to Make Bottled Water Sparkle Carbon dioxide will probably the death of humanity. Not too long ago we crossed the critical 400ppm global CO2 threshold. Meaning that unless we figure out how to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere our descendants are royally screwed.So it was exciting when, last week scientists announced that with the help of some snazzy new tech, they’d figured out how to turn carbon dioxide into everyone’s favorite recreational beverage — ethanol. The implications, obviously, would be huge. We could fix global warming and stop ocean acidification then get totally tanked, pissed, messed up, or shitfaced to celebrate.“Sounds awesome! Let’s spend all the world’s money on this new demon magic!” I hear you scream. Not so fast! Unfortunately, there’re some big caveats (you knew this was coming, though, right?)I spoke with some chemical engineers and physical chemists who asked not to be named (mostly for fear of being permanently labeled as “buzzkills”), and they said that while this new technology is surprisingly scalable, it’s unlikely we could deploy it on the scale we’d need to fix climate change.Part of the problem is the energy required. Normally you can burn ethanol and make heat CO2 and some other stuff as a byproduct. Running that process backward means reducing the entropy of that system (it’s like turning smoke back into wood). You can do it, but you’ll need a lot of outside help — and that means a lot more energy than you got out of burning the booze at the start. So, without something really incredible like nuclear fusion, the amount of power we’d need to suck up all that excess CO2 from the atmosphere would be positively ASTRONOMICAL. In fact, that’s the other big problem. We crank out nearly 10 GIGATONS of CO2 each year.That’s an unfathomably large figure — especially given that CO2 is a gas. It’s so diffuse and light that our puny brains struggle to fully comprehend just how staggering of a figure that is. So, here’s some help.That’s about 5 billion cars’ worth (which is about five times the number of cars that actually exist) of a practically weightless gas. It’s also 2000 Olympic swimming pools. Even more terrifying is that while estimates vary, we can say for sure that it is at least 20 times the total global biomass OF ALL THE FISH ON EARTH. And we crank out that amount of CO2 EVERY SINGLE YEAR.I know it sounds like I’m harping on this a lot, but it’s a ridiculous figure. We all obviously know it’s a problem, but the scale of the problem is barely calculable.Anyway… so… to convert that amount of CO2 into ethanol would be… we’ll say problematic for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, we’d need many dozens of times the energy the Earth currently produces in a year, and it’d have to come from the sun or from nuclear fusion or some other non-polluting source, or the whole thing is pointless. Then we’d need to get these specialized panels up into the atmosphere and drag it around enough through the air that we can gather up all that evil CO2. Then… we’d need some place to put the ethanol.Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Why don’t we just drink it?” You’re right. This amount of booze would be so tremendous that every year we’d make enough for every human being on Earth to get a lifetime’s supply… one hundred times over.So here’s my plan: we figure out nuclear fusion (simple, right?), get some robotic planes to circle the Earth collecting and converting CO2 into ethanol, and then make regular deliveries to us here on the ground. Then, and this is the best part: we drink humanity into extinction. After all, if we’re dead, we can’t screw this up any more, yeah? Think of it as your solemn duty as a citizen of Earth. We might be gone, but we’d save what’s left of the Great Barrier Reef. Seems like a fair trade. Stay on targetlast_img

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