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Ruby Sahiwal

Founder & Chairman , General Biofuels

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Is it possible to avert global warming by replacing "fossil coal" with biocoal?

To reverse global warming we need to eliminate approximately 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually. Worldwide coal consumption is 7 billion tons. This generates approximately 20 billions tons of CO2. Replacing about 2.5 billion tons of fossil coal with the carbon neutral biocoal will eliminate 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions thus solving the global warming problem. Is it possible to create biocoal that is cost competitive with "fossil coal"? What will it take to do so?

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    Feb 7 2012: Fossil coal is aged biocoal.
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      Feb 7 2012: that is the problem with it. carbon dioxide from the past.
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        Feb 7 2012: So old coal is worse than new coal? Coal releases CO2 doesn't matter if it is new or old.

        Carbon is carbon. When mixed with oxygen becomes CO2. It's how it works.
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          Feb 7 2012: absolutely. i'm kind of troubled by the fact that our schools and our media fails to educate us not even on the most basic level.

          the atmosphere is full with CO2. there are millions of millions of tons of it. the problem is that its concentration determines temperature. we don't want neither any less nor any more.

          CO2 is in circulation. growing plants take CO2 out of the air, and build their bodies from the carbon. dying animals and plants (and of course, combusted ones) release carbon back to the atmosphere. so as long as we don't kill much of the plants and animals, the CO2 released and taken are the same. at the end, plant combustion is solar energy.

          enter the fossils. fossils are dead plants buried under ground, so their carbon can't go back to the atmosphere. they were taken out of this circulation hundreds of millions of years ago. and we prefer to keep it that way, because if we release all this back, the climate might change, and we are screwed.

          if it was in the air back then, why is it a big deal? well, yes. in periods, earth was warmer, nothing wrong with that actually. but such changes used to happen slowly, spanned over hundreds of thousands of years. if we manage to put that CO2 back in the atmosphere in a mere 50 or 100 years, the biosphere might not be able to react in time, and massive extinction might happen. life will probably survive, but 90% or even 99% of the life forms could disappear. whether mankind can survive that, is an open question. but it will surely be a drop in quality of life.

          so that is the major difference between bio and fossil. bio carbon is taken from the atmosphere, so we can freely release it back. fossil is "extra".
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          Feb 8 2012: This is where the LFTR can save the planet. Place them on the coastlines of arid regions and the by product waste heat (~ 30-40 C) can be used for low pressure desalination combined with the power generated to pump fresh water over the deserts and grow savannas and forests terraforming the region. This would actively reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere without adding to it. Totally reversing global warming in decades and making previous desert areas of the planet habital and able to be used for food production.

          This is just one way LFTR technology can change the future of civilization forever by saving the planet instead of killing it.

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