Why do nations including the U.S. seem hell bent on spending
hundreds of billions of dollars trying to develop commercial-scale
carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS) – while spending very
little on developing technology for converting CO2 into a useful
Wake up, Mr. Obama. You just hit the jackpot. Your own Sandia
National Laboratories just made a breakthrough that has the potential
to convert CO2 into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel on a commercial scale
and at a reasonable price.
As reported in MIT's Technology Review, Sandia "successfully
demonstrated a prototype machine that uses the sun's energy to convert
water and CO2 into the molecular building blocks that make up
"In the short term we see this as an alternative to sequestration," a Sandia chemicals engineer was quoted as saying.
Someone please get in touch with Tom Friedman and Glenn Beck. Sandia
may not just have made a technological breakthrough. It may also have
made a political breakthrough.
There's something here for liberal Democrats to love – namely: using
the sun to save the planet from a huge source of global warming. And
there's something for conservative Republicans to love – namely, the
ability of big carbon-generating industries such as oil and gas,
electricity and heavy industrials to avoid being taxed on their carbon
output. Sandia's breakthrough might even make it unnecessary to draft a
punitive climate change agreement.
Instead, carbon generators could wind up making a lot of money by
selling their CO2 or, in the case of Big Oil, using it as a cheaper
alternative to crude. It isn't far fetched to think that CO2 could
become the next great global commodities market.
Investors should start thinking counter-intuitively. The very
companies that are going to get bad publicity at Copenhagen could turn
out to be the big winners.
Big long-term winners could include Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (Symbol KMP), which has interests in pipelines that transport CO2, oil giants like ExxonMobil (Symbol XOM), and big coal-using utilities like American Electric Power (Symbol AEP).