Friday, February 09, 2007

Branson pickle

An interesting prize on offer from Richard Branson: $25m for a method to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It's not clear exactly what he wants for the money (other than perhaps some good press and an excuse to keep his planes flying). I would have though that any economically efficient CO2 extraction system would make plenty of money anyway - if we could extract CO2 by algaculture, for example, it would probably be better to burn the resulting biodiesel than store it and burn fossil fuels. Same goes for the windmill-powered sequestration that Roger Pielke has promoted here (ie why not just use the wind power directly, as I mentioned in the comments to those posts). Admittedly, direct air capture provides a hypothetical mechanism for reversing an overshoot more rapidly than the ocean can soak up CO2.

Robin Hanson (of prediction markets fame) is a strong advocate of prize-based (as opposed to grant-based) research. I'll be interested to see if he makes a comment...

4 comments:

Adam said...

$25m is ~£13m which is about £2m more than Virgin Trains made in 2005-6 (http://tinyurl.com/37gp9c).

The company recently secured a £1.3bn subsidy (http://tinyurl.com/3bg28x) over five years.

Add to this the high fares on VT trains, and their low capacity and he's milking a profit out of fewer people to plough back into research to offset the problem (http://tinyurl.com/hbpoa) partly caused by more people driving.

Robin Hanson said...

Sure, I'll comment. Sounds great to me. Even if it adds only a small amount to existing incentives, we probably need more, and the mechanism is relatively efficient compared to other incentives.

EliRabett said...

Why not go for the comparitively low hanging fruit of pulling the CO2 out of power plant smokestacks? This has two laws of thermodynamics to fight.

James Annan said...

Eli,

I don't know the parameters of this prize but I agree there are obvious benefits to catching emissions at source. Of course there are also some possible advantages to free air capture too - such the ability to use relatively unproductive areas such as deserts and ocean, and/or using wind/wave/solar to power it all.