Carbon Sequestration — A Thought

I was reading another breathless science article about carbon capture and sequestration technology when the thought struck me — what happens if this works? For thousands of years we (as a species) have been merrily taking the carbon from live and fossil sources and combining it with atmospheric oxygen in a process that releases heat and forms the basis of our civilization. But over time the excess byproduct of this (carbon dioxide) has built up in the atmosphere and is seen as one of the contributors to global warming.

You see, the natural process would be for plants to absorb the carbon dioxide and use the energy from sunlight through photosynthesis to release the oxygen back into the atmosphere and put the carbon into its structures. Over time this gets buried and becomes coal or other fossil fuels. Then we dig it up and the process starts all over. (I am sure that a similar cycle exists for petroleum.) The point of the cycle for this discussion is that the oxygen is released back into the atmosphere.

But now we have this great idea that to save ourselves we need to capture the carbon dioxide from our waste streams and hide it somewhere. Sounds great but what happens to the two atoms of oxygen that get sequestered along with the atom of carbon? Seems to me that if we systematically remove the oxygen from the atmosphere along with the carbon we will end up in a worse place then we are at now. After all, if the carbon dioxide does not get rendered by photosynthesis, where is the oxygen going to come from to run the combustion process the next time? Or worse, where does the oxygen come from for us to breath?

Seems to me that the whole concept needs a massive rethink. The problem is not only the accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but the declining amount of oxygen. Somehow the real solution should address both issues.

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Rural Internet

Living away from the big urban areas has many virtues and rewards. But internet services are not among them. This is particularly true with streaming video, that every news service in the world seems to have embraced. Previously, if one wanted to watch video media, there would be a delay while the media file downloaded before it played. But other than the delay the results would be quite good. But with streaming video, the material is fetched from the internet and rendered immediately — so the continuity of play closely reflects the quality of the connection. Out here in the boonies this means ‘Th’…..’is ‘……’is a specia’….’l announcement of ‘……’major’………………….’import’….’ance.’ And so on. And since it is a live stream there is no way to buffer it locally to enhance the continuity. A pity. While I am sure that from the developers perspective, anyone without a local fibre connection is just too backwards to be noticed. Out here in the generally peaceful countryside we have different opinions.

Patriotism

This past week both Canada and the United States marked the anniversaries of their founding. Amidst the celebrations, though, there are still notes that politicians on both sides of the border have lost their way. At the Stampede PM Harper decried the opposition for trying to hinder his ‘get tough on crime’ campaign — an odd point, that, because as far as I have seen putting a larger percentage of the population behind bars does little to reduce crime and nothing to reduce the cost of government. And Ignatief complained about the rather vicious attack ads the Conservatives have been running. Did anyone remember that the rising population of unemployed, the shrinking manufacturing sector and the crumbling public infrastructure are the real problems? How will any of this influence my vote and the vote of my neighbors? Well, if ‘none of the above’ is on the ballot I am sure it will win by a landslide.

On the other side of the border we have the spectacle of the Republicans working harder than ever to disrupt the Democrats attempts to rebuild the country. All the posturing against the idea of a single payer health care system is just pathetic.  It is clear to many, the Prez and me for example, that rising costs will eventually destroy the country, and not that far in the future at that.  The list of issues goes on but becomes boring in its repetition.

I think the central problem, if there is one, is that what happens down the road to us and our children is difficult for many if not most to conceptualize — so we seize on the little points that  we can grasp. In either ‘The Peter Principle’ or perhaps ‘Parkinsons Law’ there was an example of a board meeting where a multi-million dollar project was discussed and approved in a few minutes but they debated the issue of a new five hundred dollar bike rack for hours. The point was that everyone could grasp the bike rack issue but the project was too abstract.

So too in government the problem is always leadership and patriotism to solve problems for the future good of the country and its citizens. But too often it becomes bogged down in petty bickering and mud slinging. The U.S. has done well in its new President and I am hopeful that some patriots in Congress will help the country move forwards to solve its problems and build a better tomorrow.

But in Canada I fear that building a better tomorrow is being left to chance and that the ‘true patriots’ are just words in a song, not people of vision and leadership.