Friday, September 11, 2009


There has been a lot in the media in the last few weeks about geoengineering. Among all these reports two have particularly caught my attention.

The first was the report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineering (IME) (see the guardian article here. The original report can be found on the IME website). The report recommended some geoengineering solutions for helping to solve global warming.

The first thing I thought when I heard about the report (on BBC world service radio) was "that is a typical report from a bunch of engineers". I am an engineer so I understand (even though not agree with) what they are saying. Engineers always think that technology is the solution and they have a tendency to think of "end-of-the-pipe" technology first (or as the global warming people call it, mitigation) -- the grander the better. In the field of waste management it took years to get engineers to think in terms of pollution prevention and clean technology, which does not produce waste, instead of treatment technology.

I perfect example of this is the top recommendation of the IME report: artificial trees. These are "trees" which pump air in through its "leaves" and then filter out the CO2. But of course it has to run on electricity, it has to be manufactured, and something has to be done with the captured carbon dioxide. Yes, the report stated that the artificial trees could be run on renewable energy, but (1) we are far from having that today and (2) we would need even more generation capacity than without having the trees. As for the captured gas, the technology of sequestering it is untested and not without sceptics. Why not use regular trees, which require no electrical input and do their own carbon sequestering?

The other media report that caught my attention was a Reuters article about geoengineering that included a method of producing energy by harnessing "dark matter". Hold it! First of all even physicists do not know what dark matter really is. Secondly, if he has found this great discovery about how to use dark matter, where is it documented? In other words, which journal has he published his findings? -- he could even get the Nobel prize with this discovery.

Simply put, do not believe everything that is in the media. And if sounds too good to be true, it is!

I believe in the following quote from Amory Lovins about energy is valid towards these points:

Technology is the answer, but what was the question?

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