You might have heard about Richard Branson’s offer of a $25,000,000 prize for a commercially viable design which will result in the reduction of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The idea may conjure up visions of massive machines that suck in polluted air in one end, and spew out clean air at the other. More realistically, some suggest ocean fertilization, and outer-space-based systems. I doubt that either of those plans will work, so I've put together a plan of my own. This will be my entry in the Richard Branson challenge:
Submission by: Solar John
Date: March 16, 2007
Removing carbon dioxide makes little sense as long as we continue to pump it into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. Any physical device or system designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be ineffective, at best, without an accompanying program to reduce emissions. By the same token, an effective plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions eliminates the need for a device or system to remove carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. The remaining carbon dioxide emissions can be absorbed by plants. Therefore my proposal has little to do with removing it, but is instead a plan to stop polluting the atmosphere in the first place.
A gradually escalating tax on the use of fossil fuels would accomplish the goal. Primarily, this would affect electricity providers. To remain competitive, those utility companies would switch from fossil fuels to non-polluting alternatives in the generation of electricity. This, of course, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Individuals who continue to use electricity from polluting providers will pay at an ever increasing rate, and therefore would be compelled to use less, and eventually switch to a non-polluting provider. The polluting provider will eventually stop producing electricity, due to high costs to do so, and a lack of demand.
To a lesser extent, gasoline used in automobiles also contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. In the United States, auto manufacturers are already mandated to produce more efficient, less polluting automobiles. These constraints should continue until it becomes more economically practical to use alternatives to gas and diesel engines. This trend will spill over to other devices that currently run on gasoline, such as lawnmowers, garden tractors, and small recreational vehicles. Hybrid cars and golf carts already use electric motors, proving that electric propulsion is practical, and that the technology is already in place.
Funds collected by taxing the polluting energy providers will be used to help clean energy provider’s ramp up quickly, and to help agriculture meet the growing demand for crops with which to make biofuels. A portion of the same funds will also be used to help individuals and organizations pay for non-polluting systems, and to fund small-scale renewable energy projects. These would include solar photovoltaic systems, wind farms, small to large hydro electric power facilities, and bio-fueled heating equipment to name a few. A significant portion of the available funds would be used for reforestation efforts, resulting in an increase of CO2 absorption. Practical carbon sequestration projects might also be a component of this plan.
Benefits and drawbacks of the plan:
In addition to accomplishing the primary goal, this plan has many other benefits. It will benefit the economy by creating new jobs, especially in agriculture and manufacturing, and will result in exportable technology which will have a positive economic effect. Another desirable effect will be an ecological improvement which will benefit commercial fisheries, tourism, and recreation. The elimination of coal mining will preserve mountain ranges that currently are the victims of Mountaintop Removal Mining, stop the pollution of groundwater sources, and will mitigate other harmful effects of mining, cleaning, and transporting coal.
Those who benefit from oil and coal industries will be forced to look elsewhere for their livelihood. However, they will have time to change careers, perhaps taking advantage of the many opportunities that will result from the implementation of this plan.
A portion of crops currently used for food will be diverted to energy production instead, creating a fear of food shortages. However, the American Farmer has always met the demand for food crops, domestically and abroad, and will continue to do so in the future. Crop yields will be higher because of a cleaner atmosphere and water, a byproduct of this plan’s implementation.
This plan will accomplish the primary goal with few negative consequences. It is a common-sense approach to solving the massive global crisis we face. We need to become good stewards of the earth and sky, instead of just claiming to be. Our survival depends on it.