Joyce Kilmer wrote, “ I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree… Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” Well Joyce, there is a man who is working on a “synthetic tree”.
The idea is not to replace trees, but to use the synthetic trees to capture carbon. Of course, real trees do this but the synthetic tree can do it around 1000 times faster.
The man behind the idea
Klaus Lackner, Ewing-Worzel Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University has already built a model. He has spoken to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in May of 2009 to explain the concept and he has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Carbon already in the air
This technology is not meant to replace carbon capture and storage methods being tested for use on coal-fired power stations. It’s targeting carbon already in the air. “Half of your emissions come from small, distributed sources where collection at the site is either impossible or impractical,” said Professor Lackner, “We aim for applications like gasoline in cars or jet fuel in airplanes. We are going after CO2 that otherwise is nearly impossible to collect.
The magnitude of the task of reducing global carbon emissions is daunting. One day urgent action will need to be taken—when the planet is too warm, ice is melting too fast. In that case, we will need to have a way of pulling the CO2 out of the atmosphere.
What would it cost?
“Each unit could take about the amount of CO2 produced by 20 average automobiles in the U.S.A. per day. A five percent surcharge on automobile purchases could go to the building of the units to remove the CO2 those vehicles are going to create.” says a colleague of Lackner’s, Professor Wally Broecker.