Congenital Innumeracy

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I came across an article that hypes a new “carbon capture” plant with the following headline:

The world’s first “negative emissions” plant has begun operation—turning carbon dioxide into stone


The article starts out as follows:

There’s a colorless, odorless, and largely benign gas that humanity just can’t get enough of. We produce 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year, and we’re on track to cross a crucial emissions threshold that will cause global temperature rise to pass the dangerous 2°C limit set by the Paris climate agreement.

carbon capture.png

But, in hushed tones, climate scientists are already talking about a technology that could pull us back from the brink. It’s called direct-air capture, and it consists of machines that work like a tree does, sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out from the air, but on steroids—capturing thousands of times more carbon in the same amount of time, and, hopefully, ensuring we don’t suffer climate catastrophe.

So … CO2 “problem” solved, what’s not to like?

Well, down near the bottom of the article they say:

Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks’s director, says it hopes to bring costs down to about $100 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. That’s close to the price Carbon Engineering is targeting, according to Geoffrey Holmes, the company’s business development manager. Peter Eisenberger, co-founder of Global Thermostat, says their technology will be even cheaper: when scaled up, he says, costs will drop to as low as $50 per metric ton.

OK, let’s take that as gospel even though they may never get there. They confidently say the cost will get down to $50 per tonne … so if we want to capture the “40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year“, it will cost a mere two trillion dollars per year

Two trillion dollars??? And not just once, but each and every year???

Now, humans are not good at visualizing big numbers, so here’s a comparison. Suppose someone with deep pockets started a business way, way back in the year zero, the year when Christ was born. And suppose further that the business lost a million dollars a day. A million bucks, that’s a lot of scratch … and the business lost that every day.

So, time passed, as it tends to do. The Roman Empire fell, the Dark Ages came, and the business was still losing a million bucks each and every day. Medieval times came and went, the Victorian era bloomed and faded, and all the way up to the present, the business lost a megabuck every day.

So … if the million dollars per day loss continued every day right up to the present, how many trillions of dollars would you estimate the business would have lost in total?

Well … um … not even one trillion.

And these numeric geniuses are proposing that we waste two trillion dollars per year to capture CO2? That’s more than five billion dollars per day … really? There are not any pressing global problems left to solve? Have we conquered poverty? Does everyone have clean water? Think of what problems we could solve and what we could achieve with five billion dollars to spend, each and every day, year after year.

And given all of the world’s problems, they propose wasting two terabucks per year on this madness?

Congenital innumeracy …


PS—Of course, this process will require lots and lots of energy. And you can’t use a normal fossil-fueled power plant to provide the energy or you’re putting more evil CO2 into the atmosphere. Plus it requires special rock to inject the CO2 into … which means it will only work in Iceland where they have lots of geothermal energy plus the special rock …

PPS—If you are going to comment please quote the exact words you are referring to, so we can all understand what you are discussing. I get grumpy when people start throwing around uncited, unquoted, unsupported accusations that some un-named person made some vague unspecified claim somewhere or another … that way lies madness.

216 thoughts on “Congenital Innumeracy

    • It may be that, yet in my experience it has been the difference between a scientist and an engineer.
      Scientists will study and calculate a number, but it takes an engineer to explain to you just how big a s#it-load that really is….or isn’t.
      I’ve had radar scientists calculate dimensions for a special antenna only to be reminded the dimensions were bigger than the ship they were intending to modify.
      BTW it may be a faster process, but its energy usage seems foolish when plant life will increase accordingly AND capture useful foods and fuels.
      In what form are they capturing the CO2? In mineral scrubbers? Separation?
      I prefer hydrocarbon chains that make for a nice rum. 🙂

      • Difference between scientist and an engineer is the example of an anti submarine warfare idea. Scientist says just heat the ocean up to the point that the submarines have to surface then destroy them. The engineers can figure out how to do it.

      • Difference between a scientist and an engineer.
        Picture a long hall way, scientist at one end, an engineer at the other. Beautiful woman exactly halfway between them.
        Rules, every time the bell rings, the both men can advance halfway to the woman.
        Bell rings once, engineer moves, scientist doesn’t.
        Bell rings again, engineer moves, scientist doesn’t.
        Bell rings third time, same thing happens.
        Engineer asks the scientist, why aren’t you moving.
        Scientist replies. If we can only go half way each time the bell rings, we’ll never get to the woman.
        Engineer responds. True enough, but eventually we’ll reach a point where the remaining distance doesn’t matter.

      • Maybe they could start by showing me where the actual problem is showing up. Can’t seem to put y finger on that. Everywhere I look it seems to be….better!

      • The scientist completely discounts that the woman will move toward the money (engineer) in the hallway !!

      • As one of my professors in Physics said, if you get the answer down to a factor of 10, you’re good. If an engineer can get it down to a factor of 2, they are good. But it’s the accountant that takes it to 10% profit.

      • This is very good news indeed. I trust they have transmitted their findings to the usual news outlets like The Guardian and WaPo and NYT. I just hope they broke it down into understandable numbers like Willis did – you know like about $5billion per day to capture this deadly gas

      • Don’t worry so much about the cost. At their Iceland facility, they’re using energy from a geothermal plant, which means that it really is free.

      • I already wrote to one company proposing a carbon sequestration facility offering to pay for a greenhouse upstream and downstream of their air ‘cleaning’ process and to pay for the “scientist” to observe and report how the plants fared at either end.
        Of course I had no reply.. I would have thought they’d leap at the prospects of free money but I guess they already knew what the outcome would be and would rather not have such details on record.

  1. Willis, it’s great that you dig up these nonsenses and show just how ridiculouse they are. Well done once again
    Harrow Sceptic

  2. Congenital innumeracy …

    Also known as the answer to my childhood question: Daddy, why are those people bypassing rational risk analysis in favor of their completely-made-up “Precautionary Principle”?

    • Brad Keyes, you are underestimating the value of efficiency.
      Simplifying is a lot quicker than comprehending.
      The Precautionary Principle saves a lot of wasted effort.
      We have no time to stop and observe. The Doomsday Clock is ticking!
      You clearly care nothing for your Great-Grandchildren.

      • these are the direct ancestors of the tide.pod generation.
        the rules of engagement are: convince people that sacrifice is a virtue and they’ll devoutly leap off any precipice. this used to be ‘arcane wisdom’ but now half the planet knows how to work it.
        thanks to human ingenuity, cannibalism is sustainable

      • M,

        Brad Keyes, you are underestimating the value of efficiency.

        Ha! I’ve neither over- or underestimated anything in my life.
        Rather, I’m just assuming efficiency has zero value in order to make the argument simpler, and thereby to save both parties their precious time—in short, I’m abstracting it out of the equation for the sake of streamlining, economy, expediency, elegance, speed, succinctness, productivity and cost-effectiveness…
        All values I apparently hold dearer than certain parties to our dialogue, who shall go unnamed if only because I can’t remember what their 007-esque initial stands for. Harrumph! (Is it Michael?)

    • BK, as Bavarian hunters would say in their Lederhosen, Noch ein Treffer.
      Und, zum Erklarung, Ich schaffte das Bayerische Fischereiprufung, aber das Jaegerprufung nicht, weil kostet mehr Zeit als Ich denn haette. (Umlauts translated to iPad English using the tricky e.)

      • Rud, you lost me at the construction “zum + verbal noun ending in -ung,” I’m afraid! Isn’t the latter feminine, by definition? Is there a word missing after the masculine/neuter “dem” implicit in the contraction “zum”? Anyway thanks to iPad you can now make an umlaut without breaking an Ei. Simply hold the vowel key for half a second and a popup menu with all the diacritics you could possibly want will… er, pop up. Then click the ä, ö or ü as desired (or, if you’re in a Slavic mood, ë).

    • Regarding the Precautionary Principle, Fascism/totalitarianism has killed tens of millions in the 20th century, ergo ClimateFascists who wish to virtually ban use of fossil fuels(except for themselves and their elite, nomenklatura brethren) killings a billion or so?

    • Look at this way.
      With a million Obamas, that’s only $2,000,000 per Obama (assuming an American trillion).
      So that’s only 5 speeches per Obama per year.

  3. I suppose they can’t see the ships loaded with wood pellets on their way across the Atlantic to boilers in the UK. Or maybe they don’t care to look.

  4. So … if the million dollars per day loss continued every day right up to the present, how many trillions of dollars would you estimate the business would have lost in total?
    I don’t know but Elon Musk is giving a pretty good shot.

    • There is an old adage: “If you want to make 1 million dollars in the space business, first start out with 5 million.”

      • And if you want to leave a casino with a small fortune, have a large fortune to start with.

      • Musk will stay rich as long as the government keeps shoveling money at him. The more his companies lose, the more the feds give him.

    • Doubt if Musk much cares about money as long as he has enough of it. Seems more like fun to him. Wish I could do the same. Start a few techs, throw money and watch what pops out. I do wish he’d stop using tax payer money but perhaps one of these Co’s will come along and make that damn flying car I was promised in Popular Mechanics for the last 40 bloody years.

  5. Congenital innumeracy …

    may just be the culmination of a long march thru the institutions:

    Study Criticizes Engineering Programs For Focusing On Math and Science Rather Than Political Concerns
    We recently discussed how University of Illinois math professor Rochelle Gutierrez triggered a national controversy over her work “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods” in which she criticized math classes as a “tool of whiteness.”

    You wouldn’t happen to be white, would you Willis? 😉

      • Willis, you have to think with your heart as well as your head.
        It is good that you denounce your White Privilege and forswear the use of mathematics.
        You must learn to feel your way to the correct solution. Once you learn to think with your emotions, instead of logic and reason, the modern world makes much more sense.

      • Alternatively you could upload a photo of your tool to prove it is either a trans tool, or a tool of color, gender, or flava, thus allaying the community’s valid and growing concern that you wield a tool of privilege. Self-denunciation is of limited value as it’s all too often another name for ‘limited hangout’ and has been used by powerful albino men since time immemorial to prevent full hangout of their tools.

      • You haven’t really contributed to the cause unless you have a picture of yourself looking suitably chastised holding up a sign with the hash tag of the day.

      • The “genetic fallacy” rears its ugly head

        Ugly head? Well pardon me for the fact that we can’t all be as callicephalic as Your Silver-haired Majesty!
        Your naked looksism is the only reared head I see from the ass-forwards hermeneutic coordinates I have the privilege of occupying!

    • Of course he is. He is sane. He is rational. And he recognizes that cagw is a scam. * SNIP * – Seriously? Blatantly racist statements have NO place here. And I am a ‘white’ person. I find these types of statements particularly offensive. Do it again and I will recommend a block — MOD

      • Yup, all female diversified team although not sure if Eskimo(or whatever they’re called now) was included.

  6. I’m not surprised they say climate scientists are talking about it in hushed tones- I would too.
    Not only are trees prettier and better for the job, they are a lot cheaper. They also generally look after themselves once you’ve got them started, and provide home and shelter for all sorts of other life forms. It’s win-win with trees.

    • Trees “provide home and shelter for all sorts of other life forms.
      I have a few big old Cottonwood trees. Some have reached their maximum size. Limbs break off, holes appear, and the center gets soft. Like an old motel with a sign saying ‘Rooms Available’. All told, it’s a zoo in there.

      • They used to do so, before people arrived. Or at least the Norse. The few Irish monks which preceded them didn’t have much effect on woodland.
        “At the time of human settlement almost 1150 years ago, birch forest and woodland covered 25-40% of Iceland’s land area. The relatively tall (to 15 m) birch forests of sheltered valleys graded to birch and willow scrub toward the coast, on exposed sites and in wetland areas and to willow tundra at high elevations.”
        Before that, during the Miocene and Pliocene, Iceland had more extensive and diverse forests. Each glacial advance during the Pleistocene took out more tree species, until only birch and scrub willow were most of what was left. Rowan is uncommon and aspen extremely rare.

      • Yes, trees grow in Iceland, rather slowly it seems. A few feet taller now than when I was there 30 years ago.

      • The article posted earlier today about the Paris accord mentioned BECCS (Bioenergy Carbon Capture Sequestration) as an alternative. A study determined it would take plantations twice the size of India, or 1/3 of the world’s arable land, to capture the amount of carbon necessary to avoid Climageddon.
        So, no, trees in Iceland just won’t save us. :’-(

  7. Over half of the anthropogenic carbonic anhydride produced every year is already sequestered. How? More importantly, how can we nudge these processes to be a bit more efficient?
    Due to thermodynamics, these processes are endothermic so they also absorb energy..which would have resulted in more surface energy gains..
    Instead these confidence artists want to fleece the public to devolution.

    • There is only around $ 90 trillion (in US dollars) actual money in the world. Since the US is the worlds defacto currency the US through quantitative easing (printing money electronically) can increase theirs a little bit without sinking the US dollar but the rest of the world cant. Ex: As soon as any country doubled their money supply their currency would drop by 50%. So 2 trillion $ is quite a large chunk of the worlds cash. As Willis said there are lots of things you can think of to spend on to better the world rather than try to limit a gaseous molecule that the planet’s atmosphere needs more of NOT LESS. What a land of OZ we live in.

  8. Suppose that it is all going into making FeCO3 out of FeO. FeCO3 is lower density than FeO, so this causes the basalt to expand. Suppose it is spread evenly over the entire area of Iceland. My very hasty estimate is that this would raise the surface of the entire island by 15 cm per year. Even if it could be done, I’m doubting the locals would consider it acceptable.
    By the way, what happens when lava hits FeCO3? Doesn’t the CO2 come back out? Whee! A CO2 volcano!

    • Reminds me of the last time I was in Zimbabwe. The locals happily accepted payment in any currency – except zimbabwean dollars.

    • Off topic, part of this is because they have to import just about everything and export nothing but trouble. Imbalance of trade = inflation.

  9. Willis says: “And these numeric geniuses are proposing that we waste two trillion dollars per year to capture CO2?”

    No they are not proposing this Willis, you are, and you are constructing a strawman.
    In the article they said: ” we likely need a means of sucking back up some of that extra greenhouse gas.”

    They also say: ” if we have to capture as much as 10 billion metric tons by 2050, we are looking at spending $500 billion ”
    Note they didn’t say “ALL” your strawman says “ALL” and you calculate a number that is not representative of what the entire article is about.

    • Since CCS is a completely useless exercise in stupidity producing nothing of any benefit whatsoever to mankind or the planet, one penny is too much to spend on this nonsense.

      • True IFF the oil is heavy (lower viscosity), the conventional reservoir is high porosity/permeability, AND thenCO2 is cheap enough while oil is expensive enough. Truemfor Canada’s Wayburn Field, with CO2 produced by amine process from adjacent natural gas fields. NOT true for Boundary Dam in Canada, or Kemper in US—both colossal failures.

      • The oil reservoir should also be deep enough so the CO2 becomes supercritical. It is then a much more efficient solvent.

    • @C. Paul Pierett,
      So by your own provided quotation:
      “” if we have to capture as much as 10 billion metric tons by 2050, we are looking at spending $500 billion ”
      Who do you know that has half a trillion dollars laying around to spare for climate virtue signaling? I know for certain it isn’t Iceland.
      Who do you know who actually believes the target cost thrown out for funding as being near accurate?
      Would you like to site a major multi-billion dollar project of any kind funded by government money that ever came at or below budgeted cost?
      How about the Space Shuttle? Nope.
      Ok, how about the never completed SSC? Even bigger Nope.
      California high speed bullet train to nowhere? Nope.
      F-35 fighter jet? Helllll nope.
      It would appear self evident that extreme skepticism is ALWAYS called for when reviewing a proposed large budget item of dubious worth based on something like the blatantly political Paris climate agreement that had no actual legally binding agreement for funding with either China or the United States.
      How about something remotely sane instead, like planting trees?

      • Paul,
        No, the US military budget is $574 billion (up 9%) in the DoD, plus a bit in the DoE for nukes.
        But the main problem with the sequestration scheme is that it’s a waste at best and more likely would damage the biosphere. More plant food in the air so far has been a good thing.

      • Paul,
        You must not have read your own link. Your 2018 (actually 2019 in your link) “military budget” or spending total included lots of departments which aren’t military. We are very unlikely in 2019 to be fighting ISIS to the tune of $88.9 billion. Authorized doesn’t mean spent. I mentioned the DoE NNSA.
        “Second is the overseas contingency operations for DoD to fight the Islamic State group ($88.9 billion).”
        “Third is the total of other agencies that protect our nation. These expenses are $181.3 billion. They include the Department of Veterans Affairs ($83.1 billion), the State Department ($28.3 billion), Homeland Security ($46 billion), FBI and Cybersecurity in the Department of Justice ($8.8 billion) and the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy ($15.1 billion).”

      • Chimp, DoE spending on nuclear weapons is military spending.

        I suggest that you realize that the strawman Willis has constructed is bogus from the onset. Not only is his strawman bogus, but his calculation ignores the fact that the biosphere and the oceans absorb half of human emission right now. That makes his calculation off by a factor of 2. My mention of military spending was just provided to show that $500 billion isn’t an unreasonable amount of money, for whatever purpose.

      • PS Chimp, please clear up your misunderstanding of the terms “appropriated” and “authorized” as your distinction demonstrates you’ve never been in government service.

      • Paul,
        I included the DoE’s nuke segment in my first comment.
        I never mentioned the word “appropriated”. I said “authorized”.
        Does the US Army count as government service? State representative? Or do I have to have been a federal bureaucrat?

      • Being an employee of the Army invalidates you, as soldiers don’t have a say in expenditures. You are required to obey orders, not spend money. Same goes for other branches of military services.

      • “C. Paul Pierett March 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm
        The US 2018 military budget is $824 billion. That is one country on the earth. So, $500 billion isn’t all that big a number now is it? Guns v butter right?”

        Odd series of vicious comments:
        Starts off claiming someone they disagree with is using false straw men.
        Then, pierett returns to throw out his own massive straw man.
        Exposed! Just another thread bombing trollop. Irrational to the core.

      • Interesting concept C Paul protect ourselves from nuclear armed despots like Kim with something substantial … OR … throw butter at him…Hmmmm…Big no brainer there…military might is better than butter

      • “C. Paul Pierett March 26, 2018 at 4:49 pm
        Chimp, DoE spending on nuclear weapons is military spending.

        I suggest that you realize that the strawman Willis has constructed is bogus from the onset. Not only is his strawman bogus, but his calculation ignores the fact that the biosphere and the oceans absorb half of human emission right now. That makes his calculation off by a factor of 2. My mention of military spending was just provided to show that $500 billion isn’t an unreasonable amount of money, for whatever purpose.”

        Willis did not construct a strawman! That is your false straw man pierett.

        Willis stated: “OK, let’s take that as gospel even though they may never get there. They confidently say the cost will get down to $50 per tonne … so if we want to capture the “40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year“, it will cost a mere two trillion dollars per year …”

        Mankind’s estimated fossil fuel use and estimated cement manufacture for 2015 generated an estimated 72.123 billion kilograms of CO2.
        Croplands, fires, land use, tundra and a multitude of CO2 emission coupled with alarmist’s irrational desires to reduce atmospheric CO2 greatly increases annual CO2 emissions.
        Unlike your response, pierett, alarmists desire to capture 40 trillion kg of annual CO2 capture is not irrational.
        $500 billion dollars for world peace and keep America safe is not irrational.
        $500 dollars to starve plants of CO2 is irrational!
        Given, 2015’s estimated global mankind’s fossil fuels and cement manufacturing CO2 emissions are 72,123, 420,000 kgs; why don’t you, pierett, supply an explanation on just how much Jan Wurzbacher’s system will cost?
        • Ignoring that CO2 estimates are ball park effective only for certain trustworthy transparent Western Civilization countrie.
        • Ignoring the need and costs for specific and large enough geologic strata.
        • Ignoring all downstream negative impacts removing a critical molecule necessary for global plant and wildlife.
        • Ignoring that “economies of scale” are only operative where “economies of scale” apply; e.g. cost to manufacture components. Economies of scale do not apply to operating costs, land requirements, salaries, etc.

      • Hey CPP, I like the multiple two sentence posts. It is so obnoxious that it really convinces me your argument must be valid. NOT!!

    • Notice that they said “if”, which implies this is just an example. 10 billion tons is nothing in that time frame, and would have little to no effect, even if you believe all their models. Willis, recognizing that, just extrapolated out to a number which would have a real impact (again, assuming the models are correct). Personally I think any money spent on something like this is a complete waste.

    • So, in the next 30 years the proposal is to sequester 1/2 the output for a single year. Super; that will really make a dent. 9_9

    • Carbon dioxide capture is economically beneficial if they use it in oil well injection for enhanced recovery.”
      No. Something is economically beneficial if the benefit exceeds the cost. Spending $1million capturing CO2 to get $500,000 additional oil is economically stupid.

    • It is the height of abject stupidity to remove CO2 from the carbon cycle, Mr. Pierett.
      CO2 is the gas of life. Apparently you aren’t in favor of life, but of death (from starvation as population exceeds foodstuff production).
      I just want everybody to clearly see how nefarious any proposal or process is for removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

  10. Hopefully they’ll be happy with just wasting a few million on a demonstration scale model and then disappear from view.

  11. The polar oceans are already absorbing at least 20 times the amount of anthropogenic emissions. Those emissions are not “accumulating” as the fudge factors like “e-fold” used in their models predict.

  12. A missing element of the assessment – after wasting $2 trillion per year (and destroying our economy in the meantime), we will still need to come up with the additional cash required to appropriately adapt to the resulting changes in climate that are going to happen whether or not we have had these CO2 emission reductions.

  13. The global cost of climate change measures is around $1.5 trillion a year.
    $500 billion of that is renewable energy
    To build ITER would cost at most $0.05 trillion.
    That won’t happen until 2027.
    To build a thorium LFTR reactor, maybe $0.02 trillion.
    That hasn’t even been started.
    The Greens say that Big Oil is deliberately preventing attempts to get us off fossil fuels. I would argue that the reverse is true, that the Greens don’t want us to develop a replacement for fossil fuels because that would spell the end of their renewables gravy train.

  14. Hey, then there’s that tongue-in-cheek (but actually on the road to accurate) quote, “Give me a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an Ice Age”. ( ).
    The dude is spot on.
    Seriously so.
    The multiplication ratio of the CO₂ sequestration potential is now known to be in excess of 35,000:1 for CO₂ capture in the summer months of the Pacific Arctic northern ocean. I can’t find the reference, but it was sound.
    So, in a sense, since white pigment FeSO₄ waste has a physical iron fraction density about the same as crude oil, then its fair to say that 1 supertanker of titanium white byproduct iron sulfate … might well deliver over 35,000 supertankers of CO₂ sequestration in the following 3 years. 3 years is the estimate of drift-out rate for biologically sequestered CO₂-turned-into-phytoplankton-detritus.
    And we apparently get a lot of fish.
    Salmon. Good fish.
    LOTS of other kinds too.
    They’re just the apex phytoplankton chain feeder.
    35,000× CO₂ sequestration. Soluble iron mass to CO₂ mass.
    I say … “lets ramp up doing it!”, and discover cheap ways to haul it out, and spread it around.

  15. I have long advocated using nuclear power on a massive scale to warm the coastal waters of New England to tropical temperatures. The near shore areas could be then seeded with corals and all the associated flora and fauna of a tropical reef habitat. Hundreds of miles of new coral reef all around the New England coast would sequester *huge* amounts of CO2.
    Unfortunately, my proposals have not garnered much active support. I can not understand why.
    My proposal makes at least as much sense as some others we have seen recently here.
    One recent proposal by Sid Abma, is to react CO2 with sugar beets to achieve sequestration. (somehow)
    This current proposal, to inject CO2 into the base of an active volcano (What could go wrong?), actually makes my coral reef idea look good.

  16. Actually it would only cost $2 trillion TOTAL. After the first year (and probably much sooner) all the earth’s plants would die off for lack of CO2 (a.k.a. plant food), followed by the animals that feed on those plants, followed by the animals that feed on those aforementioned animals, followed by … us. There would never be a Year Two.

    • The 40 trillion kg is just (an estimate of) what humans add per year. There is a lot more CO2 in the air than that. Plants would indeed suffer from being deprived of the man-made CO2 upon which so many have come to rely, but they wouldn’t all die if 40 Tr kg of their food was sucked out of the air.

  17. “Now, humans are not good at visualizing big numbers”
    There is nothing innumerate about this. Carbon capture from air is expensive. A better way of visualizing it is to compare with the cost of putting the CO2 there in the first place. That would probably be more than $50 per tonne.

        • That’s what the oil cost… Not the CO2. The CO2 didn’t cost anything. A refinery bought the oil, refined it into gasoline, motorists purchased the gasoline and used to to go to and from work to make money.

      • About 72% of that CO2 comes from free oxygen in the air.
        What’s not to like about pumping hydrocarbons from the ground, then burning them to get water vapor, CO2 and energy? Plants use the water (after condensing as rain and soaking into the ground) and CO2 to make sugar, releasing the oxygen for us animals to breathe.
        If the process also happens slightly to warm the world, that’s good, too. The effect, if any, however, is negligible.

      • The current SCC is based on a moronically low discount rate of 3%. OMB guidance clearly states that “’a real discount rate of 7 percent should be used as a base-case for regulatory analysis,’ as this is the average before-tax rate of return to private capital investment.”
        A 7% discount rate zeroes out the SCC, possibly making the SCC negative and carbon emissions economically beneficial, relative to *ANY* decarbonization schemes.
        Figure 3 from Nordhaus (2017), modified by author. A linear extrapolation of Nordhaus’ discount rate plot implies that a 7% discount rated would zero-out the social cost of carbon.

      • The process of generating CO2 involves the performance of useful work. Moving a car/truck, generating electricity and so on.
        Mechanically pulling CO2 out of the air in this fashion, does nothing useful.

      • MarkW March 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm
        The process of generating CO2 involves the performance of useful work. Moving a car/truck, generating electricity and so on.
        Mechanically pulling CO2 out of the air in this fashion, does nothing useful.

        Worth repeating.
        And a PS, Living generates CO2, with or without “fossil fuels”. Some who breathe produce what is beneficial. Some who breathe produce what is detrimental.
        (ie Those who produce hockey sticks benefit hockey players and fans of hockey. That’s not earth shaking but still a benefit. It makes a small bit of their life better for them. (The same could be said of baseball bats.)
        But that other “Hockey Stick” and those who would use a legal “baseball bat” to silence anyone who questions it….)

    • Setting aside the fact that the “social cost of carbon” is a totally made up, fictitious, mythical accounting measure… A real world discount rate puts the “social cost of carbon” pretty close to $0/ton. Spending $50-100/ton today to stave of a problem with a discounted value of $0/ton 80 years from now is idiotic.

      • Isn’t the real ‘Social cost of carbon’ a fairly large negative number? We gain a lot from more CO2: plant food, reduced water requirements for plant growth, etc., etc..

      • “Setting aside the fact that the “social cost of carbon””
        This is not social cost of carbon. It is the actual activity of drilling, digging, pumping, piping, shipping etc that we undertake in order to get carbon from underground into the air. CCS would add some more pumping, drilling etc to complete the cycle. The question is, how much is the second stage relative to the first, if done. No-one thinks it is an optimal solution.

        • We (upstream) oil & gas producers paid for the “drilling, digging, pumping” in order to produce the crude oil. We sold the oil to pipeline operators (midstream), who sold it to refineries (midstream), they refined it into gasoline and sold it to distributors (downstream), who ultimately sold it to motorists.
          Everything has been paid for and everyone benefitted from their voluntary transactions with one another.

      • “Everything has been paid for and everyone benefitted from their voluntary transactions with one another”
        Yes. Miners mine stuff, make money, everyone benefits. But they still have to fill in the holes (usually) and deal with the waste. That isn’t voluntary, and is a cost to them, but most people think they should.

        • The cost of plugging and abandoning oil & gas wells is absorbed by the companies that produced the oil & gas. P&A liabilities are part of the economic analysis carried out before the well is drilled.
          Again… This has already been paid for by the people who ultimately bought the crude oil and gasoline.
          They paid for it because crude oil and gasoline have values to the respective consumers.
          CO2 has very little value to any consumers. In oilfield EOR, it’s worth about $20/ton; but that’s a very limited market.

      • I don’t think Nick gets economics that all the infrastructure and stuff was paid for by the oil. It’s a little bit different with the proposed process where the end product will not pay for anything it’s all just cost.
        The basics are burning the oil costs nothing it actually created a lot of money even if you wanted to cleanup the CO2 emission there is an easy formula lets do it with coal.
        Assuming 14,000 Btu coal then Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide so it’s a ration of 2.86 : 1 whatever unit you use.
        The cost of a carbon credit is around $8 per ton today so that is $22.96 per ton of coal. Current coal price is $104 a ton. So each ton of coal that is burnt produces $81.04 of value even if you want to be a true green user and cleanup your CO2 after the fact.

      • We probably could add in another cost which is political cost with the Greens vote getting smashed in recent Australian elections, but the die hard greens won’t talk about that.

    • Is that net or gross?
      It may be that the oil was burnt for a reason.
      A reason like powering the ambulance that got your spouse to the operating theater… just – in – time?
      Is $50 a barrel worth that?
      Hmm, that may depend on the spouse.

      • “It may be that the oil was burnt for a reason.”
        This isn’t a new kind of issue. In the time of Queen Victoria, soda (Na₂CO₃) was a big industrial product. The Leblanc process started from NaCL, and emitted the Cl as gaseous HCl. This caused lawsuits and complaints, and the Alkali Act (1863) required companies to absorb it. This added to the cost, but it was still profitable, although some switched to the Solvay process, which produced CaCl₂. In the end, the HCl also became a profitable by-product. But the basic arithmetic of attaching the cost of properly disposing of the byproducts to the benefits of production is far from new.

    • Oh dear. You are confusing cost with price. Things have a price if they have value. Value is a benefit.
      And its pretty funny Mosher agreed with a comment that is utterly wrong.

      • Thank Trump for that.
        Clinton would gladly have forked over the taxpayers’ cash, and found ways of skimming a billion for herself.

    • **It is not a lot of money** Mosher
      So send me a cheque then. It is not a lot when it is not YOURS.
      You would not even send a thousand.

      • It wasn’t all that long ago that a government employee could say with a straight face:
        “A million here, a million there, and pretty soon we’re talking real money.”
        Now they are telling us that 2 trillion isn’t that big a deal.

      • If I may, the quote is from then-Senator Evertt Dirksen, R-Ill, and the exact quote is, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking REAL money!”
        I watched it on our local TV station, and even as a young individual, I understood what he was talking about. The Johnson Administration was proposing some massive spending programs, to “eliminate” poverty once and for all.
        I never did hear how that worked out … … … … …

        • The same way alcohol won (Prohibition) and drugs will win. Government social engineering always fails; witness the disintegration of California.

    • Shades of Senator Dirksen, Mr. Mosher: A half a Trillion here, a half a Trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Them’s some tall Weeds in which to Wander.
      Go back to hustling Chinese Bitcoin mining equipment to the suckers.

    • It IS a lot of money. GDP is not a measure of profit, but of production. You can have a GPD of trillions and still lose money overall. Ever heard of a recession?

      • Myth: GDP is [not] a measure of [profit], but of production. (GDP: One of the great fallacies concocted by Lord Keynes)
        Not even! It’s more a measure of spending.

  18. The price of EEA (european emission allowance) is currently 12.37 EU/ton, a low from historical high of ~17 EU/Ton. The icelandic scheme at $100/ton or WE’s price at $50/ton will never fly in this depressed market.

  19. At the risk of throwing more gasoline on the fire, Let us pretend for a moment that the damn thing actually does what it was built to do, at the price of only half a trillion dollars… What would the reaction of the rest of the evil carbon dioxide spewing world be?
    Would China and India repent their sinful ways, or would they merely shrug and spew even more CO2 thinking someone else would fill in as ‘mom’ and pick up their dirty underwear?
    It has already been shown that people who think they are saving the world by carbon footprint shaming, recycling and driving expensive and highly toxic battery powered cars are often pretty big hypocrites, merely wishing to be seen as virtuous while in fact they are even more careless with their energy usage, and are very fond of jet powered travel, high energy cost lifestyles, and electronic do-dads galore (I’m looking at you Gore and Di Caprio!).

  20. The credulous author of the article is one Akshat Rathi, a reporter for Quartz in London.
    He has a PhD in chemistry from Oxford University and a BTech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai.
    Here is the nut …
    Climeworks says it is now looking to customers who want to buy their way into programs that cut their emissions. The delivery company DHL, for example, has committed to reaching zero emissions by 2050. [ … ] The hope is that DHL will pay money to Climeworks to bury those excess emissions into the ground.
    Hope springs eternal.
    And now for the big “if” …
    If direct air capture can be made cheap enough for there to be commercial interest, then the economics of carbon capture at point-sources will likely work, too. And if nothing else, the existence of direct air capture gives humanity a high-premium insurance policy against what would surely be a much more expensive disaster.

  21. Maybe the article’s title should have been, Genital Insufficiency.
    We often ridicule climate alarmists using references to the brain, but I wonder whether we should aim our ridicule a little further down. There seem to be some “sub-branial” [my word] issues surrounding tiny concentrations of a life-giving gas and policies behaving like this is bigger than it really is.

    • Oops!, I forgot the direct quote we are always asked to provide, before commenting, so (per precise author instructions), the title of the foregoing article is, Congenital Innumeracy.
      Maybe the article’s title should have been, Genital Insufficiency.
      [Fill in the rest from previous attempt]

    • Stimulate the academic/bureaucrat/profiteer “sub-branial” [sic] with lots of lubricating cash and you will get inflation, up to eventual release of noxious effluent.

  22. Can the stones produced by this process be used to make cement or something useful?
    They should figure out a way to make coal. Then they could produce the energy needed to run the machines and make them self-sufficient (but no less useless).

    • From coal to carbon dioxide, back to coal. “Now that’s a tortured journey.”
      Yeah, but it won’t be cheap!
      …right up there with the raisin rehydrator

    • Could they make the stones in the shape of patio or cobble stones so they could serve a purpose? Maybe greens would buy them at an inflated price, kind of like buying carbon credits.

  23. I like the concept “congenital innumeracy –” it goes along well with “intentional ignorance”.

    • The technical difference: congenital is innumeracy is utterly unfixable, while intentional ignorance can be changed by changing intent—removing CAGW research financial incentives, for example.
      Perhaps, upon reflection, a legal distinction without a difference.

    • Or, as I told my wife after the first visit with her family in Pennsylvania, willful ignorance. She agreed; that was one reason for escaping to Colorado upon HS graduation. Others were summer heat and humidity.

  24. I’m not sure, but I think I saw the effects of this experiment when it happened. They had used some sort of CO2 enhanced water and injected it into the fissure system of Hengill volcano. The idea was to use the carbonate formation as a propping agent to keep the fissures open. The whole region became flush with small earthquakes. This map was covered in little red dots where the quakes were at.

    • Nope! Bitcoin mining produces something of value. Sequestration of CO2 has no value (no one, at any time in the future, will be willing to pay for the sequestered CO2 – that is what it means to have value: someone has to want it badly enough to pay something [a little or a lot] for it).

  25. This reminds me of a test unit to produce water that my previous employer tested. It uses refrigeration to condense water out of the air. Worked great in Houston, but probably not very well in its intended application in the drier parts of Africa. When the performance was touted in the site newsletter, I politely asked how much electricity was consumed, versus how much water you could produce using reverse osmosis. I was informed that a full set of results would be sent out at the end of the evaluation period. of course they were not. It was a really inefficient way to produce water. To reduce the CO2 footprint, they also proposed a large PV array (the compressor on this baby was way bigger than the one in my home AC system so a typical house-sized array would not begin to push that load). All built on the back of fossil fuels. This from a company that had engineers who could do the kinds of calculations to show what a bad idea this was before wasting the money to build one.

  26. Of course they are not dreaming that the rest of the world will pay for sequester CO2 just the USA. They believe since our federal government spends around 11 billion dollars a day they can “shame” us into paying for sequester. It is why everyone on the left got so angry when Trump withdrew from Paris. The deal Obama had made was the USA would pay for the idiocy. Of course all Paris was intended to be was another wealth redistribution program.

  27. Willis
    Perspective is a wonderful thing. Thanks.
    If the powers that be were to accept the proposal and go forward with the project on the basis that you described and spend the two trillion per year, why would they not spend the same money on nuclear generation.
    As the two trillion is a cost and not an investment the power that the nuclear sites produced would be free apart from daily labour and input costs. The world would have extremely cheap power and their CO2 problem removed.

  28. … Not to mention the seeming lunacy of fracking and actual live volcano. But, Iceland has a lot of experience living on the edge… it’s not like they drilled into an actual magma pocket like they did over at Krafla. The result? Ruined a drill-bit and a bit of drilling string. Unless that chamber/pocket is under a lot of pressure, you get no eruption. And it it’s that pressurized, it’s gonna come out by itself pretty soon.

  29. What was that long-wound explanation for? Just say it would basically burn money like Tesla 😉

  30. It might be fun to calculate how much schemes like this would add to the cost of various fuels. For instance,
    Gasoline costs around $2.50/gallon (6 lb). One gallon of gas turns into about 19 pounds of CO2, so 100 gallons makes a ton of CO2. If the cost is only $50/ton for capture, the price of gasoline goes up by about 20%.
    Coal cost a little over $40 per ton delivered to power plants in 2015, according to EIA. One ton of coal turns into somewhere around 2 tons of CO2 (surprisingly wide variation even if we only talk about bituminous and sub-bituminous). If capture costs $50/ton, the cost of coal for power plants increases by 250%?! Did I get that right? Seems high.
    Natural gas for electricity was costing about $3.50/thousand cubic feet (Mcf) last year. The EPA gives a conversion to CO2 of 0.0550 metric tons CO2/Mcf. So 20 Mcf makes a ton of CO2. $70 delivered to the power plant turns into $120 – a 70% increase.
    Maybe for coal and natural gas it would be better to look at levelized costs to calculate actual price increases to consumers, but I don’t know enough to trust the levelized cost numbers available on the internet.
    Apologies if my numbers are way off – I just thought it would be illuminating to see these costs as percentage increases on our current energy prices.

    • Your numbers are way off because turning 6.3 pounds of gasoline (or anything else) into 19 pounds of CO2 or anything else is a physical impossibility. That’s right up there with claims that a push mower or scooter pollutes as much as a dozen cars.

      • Gregg Eshelman March 27, 2018 at 1:11 am Edit

        Your numbers are way off because turning 6.3 pounds of gasoline (or anything else) into 19 pounds of CO2 or anything else is a physical impossibility. That’s right up there with claims that a push mower or scooter pollutes as much as a dozen cars.

        Gregg, suppose you burn carbon. It combines with oxygen to give CO2. Now … will the carbon plus the oxygen weigh more or less than the carbon alone?

      • =========================
        Atomic Mass Units (amu)
        Hydrogen 1.00794
        Carbon 12.0107
        Oxygen 15.994
        (approximately 1, 12 & 16)
        Nick’s balanced equation for gasoline combustion
        CH2 (1 Carbon atom + 2 Hydrogen atoms)
        1.5 x O2 (3 Oxygen atoms)
        => (react to form)
        CO2 (a molecule comprised of 1 Carbon atom and 2 Oxygen atoms)
        + H2O (a molecule comprised of 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom)
        + energy
        Molecular weight of reactants and products
        (Nick’s “MW”)
        = 12 + 1 + 1
        = 14
        O2 x 1.5
        = (16 + 16) + 16
        = 48
        [14 + 48 = 62]
        = 12 + 16 + 16
        = 44
        = 1 + 1 + 16
        = 18
        [44 + 18 = 62]
        Thus, 14 grams of gasoline reacts with 48 grams of oxygen [62 grams of reactants]
        to produce 44 grams of carbon dioxide & 18 grams of water [62 grams of products]
        For a shortcut to a good approximation that yields no insight, try multiplying the weight of gasoline by pi. 🙂

    • “I just thought it would be illuminating to see these costs as percentage increases on our current energy prices.”
      Yes, I think it is. The percentages for coal and natural gas are high, but for power generation, it is much better to capture the CO2 before it has been released to the air. For gasoline, 20% seems about right.

  31. Why would anyone want to spend precious monetary resources trying to turn CO2 into stone… when plants turn CO2 into materials we can eat, build homes with, and burn to stay warm without any additional human investments needed?
    The proposal is the pinnacle of progressive preposterousness!

    • Which is a volcano on top of a triple junction.
      Triple junctions are the most unstable geologic systems on the planet. Even “The Geysers” geothermal station is near the Mendocino triple junction.

  32. Hi Willis. For once, you’re flat wrong. These people are not only numerate but very smart – they know exactly how much money they’re looking to fleece from politicians in subsidies, and exactly the trigger words to use in their press release to do it.

    • I think JJB’s got it right. These people are quite numerate, but are hoping the great unwashed are not.
      Moreover, they don’t really want to solve the problem (just as the Dems don’t want to solve immigration) – they just want to use the topic as a dividing line and a way to extort money.

  33. There is plenty of scientific rational to support the idea that the climate sensivity of CO2 is zero. Hence the effort will have no effect on climate. The amount of CO2 in the air is currently below the optimum for plant growth and hence life as we know it. If we remove enough CO2 we could extirminate life on this planet but it still would have no effect on climate. If you want to lower temperatures at the Earth’s surface yet preserve life then a better approach would be to remove significant amounts of N2 from the atmosphere so as to reduce surface atmospheric pressure.

    • willhaas, I agree with you that CO2 levels are currently below the optimum (way below, in fact). But, as I explained here, I’m not persuaded by your claim that climate sensitivity to CO2 is zero.
      You previously elaborated on the reason which you believe that to be the case, here.
      I asked you a question about that here, here, but you never answered. This is my question:

      willhaas wrote, “a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause a slight decrease in the dry lapse rate in the troposphere which is a cooling effect. The change in the dry lapse rate will reduce the climate sensivity of CO2 by more than a factor of 20.”
      Do you have a reference for the claim that lapse rate feedback reduces climate sensitivity by more than a factor of 20?
      Are you sure that isn’t supposed to be “more than 20 percent” (which is more in line with the estimates I’ve seen)?

      Can you please answer that question?

  34. What the heck, it’s only money. What I am trying to visualize is 40 trillion kgs of sequestered CO2 each and every year!

  35. ……One should not forget that cost in money is a proxy for energy used in whatever units of measure……That is the daily cost for the energy that would be needed to keep the marvelous machine running. Nor do they get to have a perpetual motion machine any more than any of the rest of us get to.

    • Do you reckon this marvelous machine may be powered either directly or indirectly by fossil fuels?

  36. Alright, let’s clear some stuff up.
    This is the chemical reaction of Octane (Gasoline): C8H18 + 12.5 O2 -> 8CO2 + 9H2O
    1 mole of C8H18 is 114 grams, 12.5 moles of O2 is 400 grams,8 moles of CO2 is 352 grams, and 9 moles of H2O is 162 grams….balanced, just as it should be.
    Ok, so with this in mind, let’s look at the energy of this chemical reaction. Oh that’s right, it’s exothermic, which is why we use it for combustion. Wait, so is every other hydrocarbon, some of them gloriously efficient which is why we use them to power our modern world as cheaply as we do.
    Meanwhile, to turn CO2 into anything else, whatever it might be, is an endothermic reaction….yes, that is right, we have to put energy back into it. Which is why we look at things like catalysts, to lower the amount of energy needed to turn CO2 into anything else.
    So why am I going over basic chemistry? Good question. Quite simply, CO2 sequestration or conversion costs money. Even if it is turned into something useful, at this time it still costs more to do then to not do. CAGW fanatics may live in a fantasy world where power companies just eat the cost but the adults in the room know better.
    Every method for handling CO2 is a cost to whatever company is doing it and ultimately they will put that cost on the consumer.
    Now, as an engineer, I like the idea of capturing ALL the by-products and turning them into something useful. That is just elimination of waste, which makes my lean manufacturing geared brain all giddy inside. But it is very difficult to go against the endothermic needs of any chemical reaction with CO2.

    • “Meanwhile, to turn CO2 into anything else, whatever it might be, is an endothermic reaction”
      No. To reduce CO2 is endothermic. Acid-base reactions generally not. That is why, for example, if you leave quicklime (CaO) in air, it absorbs CO2. And the reaction here is similar, allowing reaction with basic rocks.

      • Wait for it……wait for it……
        Hey Nick, you are right.
        Yep, I said it. But….only in regards to the correct word to discuss the correct reaction. Reduction is endothermic, but…sigh…so is the necessary reaction to turn it back into another hydrocarbon, like say for instance, methane.
        Now, in regards to your whole quicklime statement.
        CaCO3(s) –> CaO + CO2 is endothermic; it requires lots of heat (energy). CaO cant be found in nature since it absorbs CO2, it has to be made. So yes, it is possible to make lots of quicklime to absorb twice the amount of CO2, but if the energy used is created by burning hydrocarbons, you just wasted money. Oh, and lets not even get into a discussion about the wisdom of throwing a base in the ocean and increasing its alkalinity…even a little.
        Now if there were calcium carbonate near the Salton Sea in California, hmmm……big solar farm to make CaO, throw it in the Salton sea and whammo……oh wait. Probably not. What about the Great Salt Lake?
        Yeah, that would cost a lot of money, kill a lot of wildlife, not take out very much carbon, and be a general nuisance…..just like every other strange idea the CAGW crowd comes up with.

      • ” So yes, it is possible to make lots of quicklime”
        No, that wouldn’t make sense. You’d emit as much CO2 as could be absorbed. But if you can react CO2 with other basic oxides in underground basalt, where the heat of lava has already driven off the CO2…that is what is proposed here.

      • So…this is CO2 vs the volcano?
        Joe Versus The Volcano was a bad movie. This doesn’t sound any better.

        ….underground basalt, where the heat of lava has already driven off the CO2…that is what is proposed here.

        IF CO2 is really a bad thing that needs to be removed from the atmosphere and the heat of lava has driven it off from the basalt rock, then wouldn’t packing more of it into the rocks surrounding a very active volcanic region be like packing more gunpowder into the tube before the fuse is lit?
        A VERY costly time bomb with no useful purpose.

      • Another PS:
        Is the goal of this to remove (some of) the CO2 from the atmosphere the (natural) volcanic heat released to begin with or to rake in some of green still being stirred up by “CAGW” gone cold?
        (“The Cause” needs a new lever.)

      • “more of it into the rocks surrounding a very active volcanic region be like packing more gunpowder into the tube before the fuse is lit”
        The basalt may have been there for millions of years. It doesn’t have to be an active region. But anyway, the CO2 becomes carbonate.

      • So it’s OK for Man to change the Earth’s basalt rock into limestone and dolomite to keep Man’s (and Nature’s) CO2 from changing the air we breath?
        Aside from the fact that there is no real need to do so, why wouldn’t those who object to Man changing the atmosphere object to Man changing the ground we stand on?
        We need more caves before CAGW-based policy drives us back to the stone age?
        Research efforts would be better put to finding an economical way for kilns that burn limestone to produce CaO recover the CO2 and sell it at a profit. (An actual profit. No subsidies or regulations forcing it.)
        Big market for CO2. (Where I work, we generally use over 10,000 pounds a day … to change carbonates into bicarbonates.)

  37. If their estimate was made by the same crew that estimated costs for the bullet train in Cali, the true cost will be $6 trillion per year.
    So, it is claimed that the rocks around the volcano have had their CO2 driven off by heat–why then can you inject CO2 and expect it to stay? It is like saying we can resettle refugees in Detroit.

  38. Willis wrote, “…way back in the year zero, the year when Christ was born…”
    I know I’m being insufferably pedantic, but there was no “year zero.” The year before 1 AD was 1 BC.

    • Thanks, Dave. I thought about properly calling it the Year 1 … then I realized, especially given the title, that I’d likely get more blowback for that than for calling it the year 0 …

    • The best I know, he was born 9/11/3 BC.
      But I’m not suggesting we subtract 3 years (or would it be 2?) from all our calendars.
      THAT would really be pedantic! 😎

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