Dumber than dumb

Here’s another one of those dumb articles by a so-called ‘environment reporter’ who simply doesn’t have the background knowledge or the brains to think deeply about what he’s writing.

Can you see the problems with the scenario?

1) Algae need sunlight, CO2 and water to grow. If the tanks containing the algae are sealed, that means no sunlight, right?

2) Using the CO2 emissions from the power station to grow algae and then converting that algae into biodiesel to fuel cars, puts that same CO2 back into the atmosphere via the car exhaust when it’s burned. It’s really just extending the exhaust pipe of the power station. The algae would be better returned to the soil where the carbon should be stored.

3) Power station emissions contain a lot more than just CO2. Oxides of nitrogen and sulphur and toxic mercury, to name a few. How’s the algae going to like that?

What annoys me about this type of reporting is that it sounds good to the layperson without the background knowledge to see the flaws in the idea. So the average man in the street gets the idea that all is OK and we can resume BAU (business as usual) without any worries.

7 Responses to “Dumber than dumb”

  1. kayepea Says:

    I think you are being a bit hard on the reporter – he wasn’t the one who worked out the detail, he was just the one who repeated what was indubitably told to him – not only by the greedy business proposing the scheme, but also backed fully by the government – neither of whom understood the processes required OR heaven forbid, understood, but saw there was money to be made no matter what and went ahead to dupe the reporter and his readers!!

    Believing what he was told without looking into it enough (or not understanding the processes) was his only crime – the company and the government were the bigger criminals.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      I don’t think I’m being too hard at all. Most people won’t use Google to inform themselves and rely on the media to provide them with information. I believe he had a responsibility to his readers to point out the potential flaws in the idea. If he’d done his homework properly, he might even have come up with the link provided below by notsomethingelse, if nothing else, to show he had more brains than the pollies and the power comapany.


  2. notsomethingelse Says:

    Trust a government body (Bayswater power station is NSW govt owned) to come up with the worst possible and most costly way to deal with a potentially beneficial solution just to keep the trucks rolling a little longer and in fact making a bad situation worse.

    Yes, it does beggar belief that anyone could consider extracting a greenhouse gas from the combustion emissions of one large exhaust system and process it at great expense into something that would reproduce the same original effect as if they had not bothered doing any of that hard work by re-combustion and emission from a large number of smaller exhaust systems.

    From what twisted sources do these people learn their logic theory?

    If there were any justice or much common sense in the world there would be no operating coal fired power stations to make CCS be even necessary to consider. But since they are likely to be around for a while longer Bev I have done a little research into CCS. I came across this document on experimental research into algal storage of CO2 recently and it may steer you towards reconsidering some of your statements: http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/10490/EDMORE%20SUBMISION.pdf

    I haven’t deeply studied the paper yet but I have concluded that carbon storage through algal growth and absorption (if it has to be done at all) does have some potential benefits, though at considerable cost of processing. The process actually grows algae and each Kg grown has the capacity to chemically fix within its mass almost 2Kg of CO2. Sounds incredible but I suppose it can achieve this by retaining the carbon and releasing the oxygen to atmosphere just as trees do.

    According to the paper, algal absorption of CO2 is up to 50 times as efficient as the natural carbon dioxide / oxygen swap cycle of Earth’s vegetation. Nature’s way of course is free while the absorption method is very expensive.

    The document includes some photographs of closed tank algae processing which may make the issue of sunlight a little clearer and while better results are obtained in higher light conditions the process does work in total darkness. They actually recommend an open pond set up rather than tanks as it is cheaper. That seem silly to me though as bubbling CO2 through ponds will result in considerable CO2 escaping to the atmosphere.

    On what to do with the algae after it is grown, it would be a waste to simply bury it since it cost so much to produce and it actually has great value potential as a food source, both animal and human or also medicinally due to the many micronutrients that it contains. Depending on the production method of course. You wouldn’t want to eat algae products produced from an open pond. There is a section in the document, ‘ Potential uses of the microalgae biomass’ which discusses this.

    You are right about the other toxic gases in exhaust emissions but there are CO2 capture systems already in use in many industries that result in almost pure 99.9% CO2. For instance the fizz that goes into most soft drinks is CO2 extracted from industrial processes.

    Taking all of these things into consideration I still don’t think it is worth the NSW government bothering to take any action towards CCS at Bayswater because they are only tinkering at the edge of the problem (only a small percentage of total emissions are being considered) to give the appearance that they are doing something. It would be better just to close the power station like many other countries are doing.

    Sorry about the long comment.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      No worries and thanks for taking the time to make it. Long comments are valuable if they contribute more knowledge to the discussion at hand. Thanks too, for the link to the research document—a long one, but I will read it through. If the media don’t inform us properly, we have to do it ourselves.


  3. narf77 Says:

    No-one wants to admit that we are going to just have to learn to live WITHOUT some things. Sooner rather than later would be the best for what is left of the environment. Here in Tassie it would seem that we are for sale to the highest bidder. Just lost the Tarkine to open cut mining apparently. Who needs the last remaining temperate rainforest in the Southern Hemisphere if you can create 50 jobs? Can’t wait till the liberals take over and reopen the pulp mill debate… sigh…


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Exactly. And we who are trying it know that life doesn’t come to an end because the so-called ‘luxuries’ aren’t there. We know it’s a better life. 😉


      • narf77 Says:

        Better, more satisfying, you sleep like a baby at night and you wake up with the sun knowing that your day is going to be productive. What more could someone want? I would rather work hard for a plate full of silverbeet than pick up a plastic spatula for $1 that was made by some poor kid in another country who never gets to play in the sun


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