Genetic Modification Could Amply Boost Plants' Carbon-Capture and Bioenergy Capacity

cygo
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Genetic Modification Could Amply Boost Plants' Carbon-Capture and Bioenergy Capacity


Genetic Modification Could Amply Boost Plants' Carbon-Capture and Bioenergy Capacity
Scientific American -- A new analysis published in the October issue of Bioscience suggests that by 2050 humans could offset between five and eight gigatons of the carbon emitted annually by growing plants and trees optimized via genetic engineering both for fuel production and carbon sequestration.

 

 


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 OK, page two of that

 

OK, page two of that article has several cautions which indicate that this is only a preliminary idea that is being floated and the people who came up with it don't actually know if it can even be done.

 

From what I am seeing, they are missing a couple of rather large points.

 

First, will bioenergy really be “carbon neutral”? What does that term mean for an atmosphere that already has way too much CO2?

 

One basic fact is that plants build their biomass from the atmosphere. However, if that mass is then turned back into fuel and rereleased into the atmosphere, then how is that different from just holding onto the carbon for a few months?

 

Sure, if we had never had an oil economy in the first place, then it would be really carbon neutral as it would be a zero sum game. However, in this case, what is removed from the atmosphere tends to end up right back in it in the short term.

 

Second, just how do the figure that plant roots can sequester carbon for thousands of years? All plant matter which does not get burned eventually decays into primarily methane, which is a far more powerful gas for forcing climate change.

 

At best, the idea can be used to develop more carbon in the soil for some amount of time but not the pie in the sky time frame of thousands of years. Far more likely is that the increased carbon in the soil will help to rebuild the rich top soil which has been destroyed by more than a century of unrealistic farming.

 

What is really needed here is a net reduction in the number of humans on the planet. Seriously, the human population has doubled since I was a little kid. If that is not a huge problem, then nothing is. If we were to get back to about 1970 level global population numbers, there would be far less demand for oil based fuels and food from wantonly overproduced crop land.

 

Yet, most of us have the proverbial head in the sand over the population crisis while demanding that “something be done about” a problem that while undeniably serious is not the core issue. If we just get someone else to wave the magic wand and sprinkle the right type of fairy dust on the situation, then all of our problems are magically going to go away. Well apart from the one that has to do with the question of just how many people can the earth actually support anyway.

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Most algae is already at

Most algae is already at 30-40% efficiency.  Way more than enough to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and in the oceans.  And AIGS is right, just growing it is not enough.  We need to harvest it.

Then what?

1. Turn small estuaries into huge estuaries and harvest the algae.  This will mitigate beach erosion if done properly.  It will encourage biodiversity - always a good thing.  It will help clean up the local beaches as people will need to keep the algae beds clean.  We already commercially produce and harvest algae - see Japan's systems for edible algae farming.

2. Turn it into plastics that don't biodegrade for 1000 years - yeah, landfill it.  We can do this with existing technology - digesters that convert plant waste (or manure) to methane gas.  Natural gas is the usual basic material for plastics.  When the plastics are trash, they are put in landfills and the generated gases used to create more plastics or as fuel.

3. Sequester it - pump it into depleted salt mines and old oil wells.  Use it to force the remnants of oil to the surface for easier (and less expensive) extraction.  It might turn into more oil or gas - which can be used to create plastics.  Or just seal it and let it cook.  Monitor for seepage.

4. In places that are short on food and fresh water, you could use algae ponds for growing edible algae and producing potable water via condensation.  Has already been done and could be adapted for low tech.

5. We could pump air down into dead areas near oil well platforms.  The platforms already have pumps going 24/7 to pump water out, so pumping air down is not a big change and should be relatively inexpensive.  For a huge return on investment - the increase in marine life could be sold as fishing and shrimping rights - so the capital costs would be covered in the license fees.  If in international waters, this should present no conflict to the companies or governments.

6. Fish farms and similar production systems are constantly fighting algae growth.  Instead of using herbicides - and the tanks must then be out of production until the water clears - they could harvest it instead and sell it or donate it to people who are converting it to products or sequestering it.

Ocean algae should be the algae of choice.  Why?  Because encouraging and harvesting ocean algae will clean up the oceans, reduce acidity, and allow the oceans to absorb more CO2.  The oceans are our biggest CO2 sink and we should focus on cleaning them up first.  Just dumping iron tablets won't do it - like farming, we need to control the environment, adding the missing nutrients.  And the missing nutrients won't always be iron.

Also, we don't want to encourage algae growth and not harvest it.  Explosive algae growth followed by explosive algae death only leads to more methane in the atmosphere as the algae decomposes.  So controlled areas with controlled growth conditions and a harvest schedule should prevent additional build up of greenhouse gasses.

No, I didn't win the Virgin Challenge with this idea.

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Terra

Who's gonna terraform terra?

[ silence ]

 

Anyone.

[ silence ]

Anyone.

[ silence ]

 [ off mike ]

Anyone.

[ fade out ]

 

 


cj
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cygo wrote:Who's gonna

cygo wrote:

Who's gonna terraform terra?

[ silence ]

 

Anyone.

[ silence ]

Anyone.

[ silence ]

 [ off mike ]

Anyone.

[ fade out ]

 

 

Humans have already terraformed terra and they have obviously done a pretty shitty job of it.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

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Who is going to make Earth

Who is going to make Earth like Earth???

It's already been done....

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