10-22-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Greens Excited About New Perpetual Energy Source

Reports are out that a group of scientists from Oakridge have accidentally discovered a relatively easy way to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, itself a fuel. Engadget summarizes the news as follows:

The team was already looking for a way to convert C02 [sic] into ethanol but were convinced that doing so would require multiple steps and catalysts. Turns out they were wrong. The system is surprisingly simple. The team created a tiny array of nanoscale copper and carbon spikes mounted on a silicon surface. A nanodroplet of nitrogen sits on the tip of each point. When exposed to carbon dioxide and a small electrical charge, this catalyst sets off an complex chain reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process and converts the gas into liquid ethanol. What's more, because the catalyst is so small, there is [sic] virtually no side reactions so the ethanol is quite pure. I mean, you wouldn't want to make a martini with it but it can go straight into a generator and work. Plus, the entire reaction works at room temperature. [links in original]
The author then editorializes:
Were this technology ramped up for commercial or municipal use, it could provide a viable alternative for utility-scale batteries, like the one's [sic] Tesla sells. That is, in times of excess energy production from renewable resources, rather than store that electricity in a giant battery, we could instead convert it to ethanol and use that to power generators when renewable sources aren't producing. Plus it would be carbon neutral since the carbon dioxide generated from burning the ethanol would be reclaimed by the catalytic process. There's no word, however, on when this accidental invention will make it out of the lab. [bold added, links in original]
Hell. Why not just burn ethanol to begin with, capture its exhaust, and burn that ad infinitum? On a more serious note (not to mention, in answer to that question), there is word on why this discovery won't "make it out of the lab" any time soon, via a blog post by Derek Lowe, who also links to the scientific paper:
The headline writers should have read the conclusions section of the paper, however, where it says that "The overpotential...probably precludes economic viability for this catalyst". Basically, you have to use more electric power to get ethanol this way than the resulting ethanol can possibly be worth. The authors suggest some ways that this might be overcome, but those will be matters for a lot of further experimentation. It's worth noting (and the paper has many references to this effect) that if you just want to chew up carbon dioxide electrochemically, you can already do that with existing technology. The big issues are the cost of the electricity you need to run such a process, and where that electricity comes from. If the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to generate all that electricity is more than the amount you're removing and turning back into reduced carbon feedstocks, the whole thing is as useful as a vacuum cleaner that sprays extra dirt out the back. [bold added]
That out of the way, Lowe also does a nice job explaining what is interesting about this process, as well as the problems that industrial application would present.

Weekend Reading

"The more government intervenes and subverts these laws of human nature, the more dysfunctional and political an economy becomes." -- Michael Hurd, in "Nanny State Leads to Rigged Economy" at Newsmax

"Sometimes the job is the career, and sometimes the job is a means for subsidizing the career." -- Michael Hurd, in "Being in Love With Your Work" at The Delaware Wave

"In my years counseling people who have cared for loved ones with Alzheimer's, I've learned several things that can make the ordeal more bearable." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Pain and Loss of Alzheimer's" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[I]n a free market, people don't get paid for the effort they exert but for the value that they create." -- Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, in "Inequality Doesn't Matter if We're All Paid According to the Value We Create" at City A.M.

"To ask candidates to address climate change without addressing the unique benefits of fossil fuels is like asking the candidates to address vaccine side effects without addressing the unique benefits of vaccines." -- Alex Epstein, in "Warming Is Mild and Manageable: Opposing View" at USA Today

Don't (Necessarily) Hand Google Your Phone Number

Unless you also use two-factor authentication, it is more than safe to ignore Google's periodic urgings to "secure" your account by associating it with your phone number:
Using a few old Google accounts, I experimented with Google's account recovery options and discovered that if a Google account does not have a backup phone number associated with it, Google requires you to have access to the recovery email account OR know the security questions in order to take over an account. However, if a backup phone number is on the account, Google allows you to type in a code from an SMS to the device in lieu of any other information.
The article details how this last "feature" can be turned against you.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "That out of the way, Lowe also does a nice job explaining what is interesting about this process, as well as the problems that industrial application would present."

And some of the comments are worth reading too. On the scientific side, as one of them points out, the fact that only ethanol is produced and not longer-chained stuff is a notable feature. But yes, I can easily see greens ballyhooing it to the skies as yet another pipe dream of the thermodynamically ignorant. The environmentalists like to say you have to consider all effects on the whole, but they always abandon that when it comes to "green energy," since if you follow that environmentalist precept to its logical conclusion, you end up having to kill off much of the human population and beggar the rest into stone-age harmony with nature. Since they haven't taken political power yet, this is something they prefer to hide from their victims, er, sorry, haven't put on my modern political vocabulary cap, soft-pedal with the electorate.

Gus Van Horn said...


It's interesting you point out that greens like to say they're keeping sight of the big picture, because, as Alex Epstein indicates in the Morning Reading quote and outlines in more detail in his book, they actually IGNORE the big picture -- and not just regarding their favorite "solutions" to their version of AGW. So, while they distract everyone with allegations of gloom and doom about the purported bad consequences of our use of fossil fuels, they cherry-pick (or worse) data that shows benefits of these "solutions" and ignore/take for granted the benefits of using fossil fuels.