Meet the Scientist Turning CO2 Into Ethanol

Meet the Scientist Turning CO2 Into Ethanol

A more in-depth look at a groundbreaking scientific discovery, with the scientist who made it.

Turning CO2 Into Ethanol

RedShift | 21 October 2016

Hey Mclary

Ask him WHAT he prooses to do with that Ethanol!!

I second georgehawley: alcohol!

kevin | 22 October 2016

Better to "suck up the excess electricity" and store it in batteries. Much more efficient.

Dwdnjck@ca | 22 October 2016

Isn' t this easier to do with corn, sugar, or wheat?

brando | 22 October 2016

One can only hope coal plant operators would use to
1- clean up smoke stack
2- off-set some of their costs with ethanol sales
(will probably need to get corn/ethanol $0.53/gallon subsidy)
(will probably get very low interest loan from Feds to pay for it - bankers need their cut)

May need DARPA project to industrialize/scale up this process. (as usual tax payer pay for it)

But since this is Popular mechanics and Nuke scientists I don't expect any of this to be practical or economical.

Red Sage ca us | 23 October 2016

"Don't drink and drive -- but don't forget to drink!" -- Tim Conway Jr.

RedShift | 23 October 2016


Exactly. Not only that, this method is currently 'economically unviable' from another thread Mclary had about this subject.

Still, we might find some suckers for some very expensive alcohol. If we burn it as alcohol, some very very expensive pollution and fumes.

grega | 23 October 2016

Good stuff he's discovered. Of course it'll always be cheaper and much more energy efficient simply not to burn fuel and use solar sourced battery power.

But ethanol and other created fuels do have a place. For now Ships. Airplanes??. Rockets.

As solar exceeds needs, batteries are a better choice. As solar exceeds land requirements then converting

grega | 23 October 2016

Sorry, I meant for ethanol would have its place ... even if we had clean energy and EVs everywhere

McLary | 23 October 2016

I can't believe that no one on this thread actually understands what the thread is about.

IF this process is real, and can be done at scale, then the whole CO2 issue can be dealt with, and the world can have a big party with all the alcohol that would become available. Even if it is not economically viable, it could still be a solution, rather than other alternatives which may cost trillions of dollars. It certainly is worthy of serious discussion.

SCCRENDO | 23 October 2016

McLary. How much energy will he expend in producing ethanol? Plant trees and you can get them to produce carbohydrates from CO2. Truly I was not aware of an ethanol shortage worldwide. Seems like there is probably no shortage in your living room either. I doubt you could produce sufficient ethanol to solve our CO2 accumulation from climate change.

grega | 23 October 2016

@McLary, my impression is that the energy required to make Ethanol vs making Hydrogen have the same kinds of issues. Inefficient, but improving over time. Directly using Electricity to charge EVs is a better solution.

If we use coal based electricity to drive an EV we're only slightly ahead of burning petrol directly (or behind if it's a good MPG like a Prius). If we use 50/50 coal/renewable we're ahead. But if we convert to Ethanol using a 50/50 mix of coal/renewable energy, the efficiency of burning the ethanol puts us behind again doesn't it?

RedShift | 23 October 2016


"It's certainly worthy of a serious discussion"

Come over to the Bay Area from whatever sticks you are living in right now, we will go have a couple of stiff drinks at a bar. May be then we can have a discussion worthy of this thread.

Ross1 | 24 October 2016


McLary, the one who always didnt know the point of a thread and had to ask 'whats the point of this thread' is now bemoaning that no one gets the point of HIS thread.

What's the point of this thread??

SCCRENDO | 24 October 2016

Ross. I will give him credit that there is a point to the thread. It is worthy of discussion. The only issue is that it is not a practical approach. We will consume a lot of energy in creating ethanol and then burn it back to CO2. It is like creating a fossil fuel and then burning it. Solar for example harnesses energy from the sun that would otherwise not be used and then it burns clean.

McLary | 24 October 2016

I will break it down to simple terms since few are getting the basic principle.

Take the coal plant used as a ridiculous example. You burn coal and create cheap energy for the grid. That is good. However you now have emissions to deal with.That is bad.

Many would invest is multi-billion $$ schemes to sequester the CO2 or simply add huge carbon taxes to the price to come to some equivalent "cost".

Instead, we could capture and convert the CO2 into alcohol for human consumption. Clean, cheap energy, and a product to toast our success with. Of course we would not use the coal, but could use the surplus of natural gas in the US.

So I submit that IF this is in any way feasible, it is a superior idea to the current "all green" energy path. Even if the cost of this alcohol is 5-10 times more expensive than traditional means of production, it would still be more cost effective than spending trillions on the huge upheaval that many on these boards think is needed.

@Ross When I ask "what's the point of this thread" it is not because I do not understand what is being said. It is because I am incredulous that the poster is wasting oxygen that could be put to better use with other lifeforms.

McLary | 24 October 2016

Almost forgot


SCCRENDO | 24 October 2016

Mclary. I got your point. Theoretically if we took all CO2 converted it to ethanol then re-burnt it to Co2 we would have no accumulation of CO2. The problem I see it is as follows. We generally burn fossil fuels etc for energy. These are catabolic processes where a a product has energy stores and when it breaks down it releases energy and CO2. To produce ethanol we normally ferment other carbohydrates to ethanol releasing energy However this process would be an anabolic process and would require energy. Where would the energy come from? If it came from the sun as is in photosynthesis in plants or solar energy or wind energy etc. it would be good. But if we burn fossil fuels to achieve this it would defeat the purpose. I tried to google the energy requirement but could find nothing.

grega | 24 October 2016

@McLary. You said "Instead, we could capture and convert the CO2 into alcohol for human consumption. Clean, cheap energy, and a product to toast our success with. Of course we would not use the coal, but could use the surplus of natural gas in the US."

I'm confused. You seem to be saying you use Natural Gas to generate electricity (and CO2). You then use the electricity you generated to capture the CO2 and convert it to Ethanol. You then burn the ethanol or drink it.

So in a 100% efficient process, you'd be changing Natural Gas to CO2 to Ethanol. Then use the ethanol for electricity. That in itself doesn't seem to be any gain (or loss), but the main problem is that the process is not 100% efficient, and that wastage becomes more environmental issues.

I am sure that's not what you meant but I can't quite work it out - unless you're assuming that converting the CO2 to Ethanol doesn't use much energy.

SCCRENDO | 24 October 2016

I have been trying to google the possibilities of utilizing ethanol or methanol as an alternate fuel. Some are extremely optimistic about methanol but it seems like there is a lot of work to be done. The second article expresses my same concerns in the discussion

McLary | 26 October 2016

The funny thing is that IF these technologies can be used at scale, there will be a major shortage of CO2 to produce fuel.

McLary | 26 October 2016

grega I'll try to use small words for you. You produce twice the power you need for the grid. You use the excess power produced, together with all the CO2 you also produced, to create either fuel or booze.

Rinse, repeat.

Even if the cost was high, it would still be cheaper than silly carbon capture ideas, which would leak no doubt.

SCCRENDO | 26 October 2016

McLary. Trust me that we never have a shortage of CO2. Many are trying these ideas but remain impractical at this point.

Magical thinking is good. However we need to be realistic.

grega | 26 October 2016

@McLary. No need to be condescending, especially when there's a chance you're still wrong, and when I'm asking politely.

Where are you getting the "twice the power you need for the grid", and how much CO2 does it produce?

You are falling into the perpetual motion machine trap, in a different form.

SCCRENDO | 26 October 2016

@grega +1
@McLary. What you are missing is that creating ethanol from CO2 is anabolic so it requires energy. You are putting energy in to get energy out with loss inbetween. So where does the energy come from??? Plants do it all the time. But their energy comes from the sun. They create carbohydrates from CO2. So if we can invent a process where all the energy to create ethanol from CO2 comes from solar or similar source we may have something.

RedShift | 26 October 2016

If you read the article, it says they ballparked the efficiency around 20% but haven't really investigated it, and having not investigated it, are going ahead and saying it is probably not commercially viable right now.

This when compared against corn ethanol. Corn ethanol, which is already pretty wasteful in terms of land and water usage, is net energy negative. Great.

They will be looking at increasing the energy efficiency 'in the future.'

Taken all of this together, this tells me they do probably have some idea about the efficiency, and it's not very good at all. So they are saying they will ball park that figure to 20%. awesome, we are now on par with ICE efficiency.

That McLary would seem to have a fixation for this sort of thing is somehow not all that surprising, given his posts on AGW related threads about how the 'believers' are idiots.