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Atmospheric Carbon Extraction and Sequestration — ACES

Should the expense of atmospheric CO2 extraction and sequestration be a public responsibility or should private companies and individuals that produce the CO2 pay for it?

Compare modern civilization's dilemma of CO2, and other man-made toxins and greenhouse gases, with primitive civilization's dilemma of human sewage. Primitive societies allowed human sewage to flow alongside their city streets, which is believed to have contributed to the 14th century plague. Modern civilization is partly defined by its extensive sewage systems that we take for granted today. We who benefit from modern, publicly mandated, sewage systems should be grateful to the city planners who had the foresight and political will to build them.

Modern civilization must stop using the atmosphere, rivers, lakes and oceans of the world for disposal of man-made waste, just as primitive societies had to stop using their city streets for sewage disposal. But “who” will pay for it, the consumer or the taxpayer? If private companies are required to pay the capital expense, the costs will be passed on to the consumer. If the government pays for the costs, then the taxpayer will pick up the tab.

Politicians and Corporate CEO's invest in the next election or business cycle, rather than investing in the best course for future generations. The United States of America needs a public institution that is insulated from short-term cycles defined by elections and corporate profits—America needs a public institution with the power to Act in the selfish interest of future generations—an institution with the authority to plan for 50 years from now, not just for the next election.

An independent public institution, or a non-profit government corporation, is not a new concept. The U.S. Postal Service is a government corporation—the Postal Service is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8. The fees charged by the U.S. Postal Service are not taxes; the postage fee is the cost of the service. The Postal Service only loses money because it is required by law to go beyond its original Constitutional mandate and deliver mail to homes and businesses. [The original mandate assumed people would go to the local Post Office and pick up their own mail.]

The ACES Corporation

A non-profit government corporation, the Atmospheric Carbon Extraction and Sequestration (ACES) Corporation, would need to be created and given its mandate through legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the U.S. President. A federal mandate would give the ACES Corporation legal authority for implementation, management and enforcement of all Atmospheric Carbon Extraction and Sequestration on behalf of the people of the United States of America, in order to assure a sustainable clean energy future.

The ACES legislation would by law define carbon dioxide as a non-pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, thereby denying the EPA authority to regulate CO2 emissions. The ACES legislation would give all regulatory authority over CO2 emissions to the ACES Corporation.

The federal government would not be allowed to make a profit from the ACES Corporation, or transfer ACES revenue into the general fund, or direct the use of ACES revenue for any purpose other than for services directly related to carrying out the ACES mandate of atmospheric carbon extraction, sequestration and/or recycling.

The ACES mandate would include securing contracts with U.S. Carbon farms and managing U.S. biochar soil enhancement projects, as well as manage and enforce the capture and storage (CCS) of emissions from stationary sources such as power plants and other carbon intensive industries, including the construction of pipelines, obtaining right-of-ways, technology development and atmospheric CO2 recycling.

CO2 emissions from power plants would not need to be extracted from the atmosphere because the emissions can be captured before being released into the atmosphere. Large stationary emitters produce a relatively concentrated CO2 stream requiring only capture, cleaning and pipeline distribution to the sequestration site.

Atmospheric carbon extraction would focus on the removal of atmospheric CO2 emissions released from U.S. transportation sources that burn fossil fuels: cars, trucks, buses, planes, farm and construction equipment, boats and trains. The U.S. transportation sector* consumes about 220 billion gallons of liquid hydrocarbon fuel per year.

* Energy use in the transportation sector is primarily for passenger travel and freight movements. Passenger travel vehicles consist of light-duty vehicles (automobiles, motorcycles, and light trucks) and high-duty vehicles (buses, airplanes, boats, and trains). The freight modes of transport include truck, air, rail, pipeline, and marine (domestic barge and cargo). Energy is also used for military operations and off-highway vehicles used for construction and farming. Energy Information Administration

A federal law mandating the removal of vehicle CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and providing for the means to do so, will make State low-carbon fuel standards unnecessary, and unenforceable. The ACES Corporation will be given the sole authority and responsibility for carbon dioxide emissions from all liquid hydrocarbon fuels consumed in the USA, and for the removal from the atmosphere of all life-cycle carbon emissions associated with the production and consumption of the hydrocarbon fuels, exempting only fuels sold and consumed outside of the USA.

The ACES fee

The ACES fee is not a tax. The ACES fee can be compared to the cost of postage charged by the U.S. Post Office for its services, or royalties received from private companies for mineral rights on federal land. The ACES fee would be the price of services performed and privileges granted.

The ACES legislation would require the ACES Corporation to collect fees on the wholesale distribution of all liquid hydrocarbon fuels sold for consumption in the USA. Exports would be exempt and imports would be subject to the fee.

A separate ACES fee (and separate method for collection of the fee) would exist to pay the cost of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for large stationary CO2 emitters, such as electic power plants. In the following paragraphs, in order to avoid confusion, the ACES fee for all liquid transportation fuels will be called ACES fee-1 and the CCS ACES fee will be called ACES fee-2.

The ACES legislation would make it unlawful to sell a liquid hydrocarbon fuel for consumption in the USA unless the ACES fee (fee-1) has been paid. So, in one sense the ACES fee would be like a license to sell hydrocarbon fuels (a privilege granted), and yet at the same time the valuable work (services performed) of extracting carbon from the atmosphere after it has been released into the atmosphere when the fuels are burned, would be like a clean-up service.

The amount of the ACES fee-1 would be determined by the weight of the carbon content within the liquid hydrocarbon fuel. The carbon content of various types of fuels should be standardized, for example: gasoline could be assigned a standard weight of 5.5 pounds of carbon per gallon. Alternatively, each type of fuel could be assigned a standard weight expressed in total pounds of carbon per ton or barrel of fuel.

The ACES fee-1, for all liquid transportation fuels, would be set at 10 cents per pound of carbon — the fee would be based solely on the weight of carbon within the fuel, expressed in pound units. It is important to be clear about this, so again, the ACES fee-1 would be based on the weight of the carbon within the liquid fuel, not on the weight of CO2 emitted when burning or producing the fuel.

The ACES fee-1 would be paid by the wholesale fuel distributors, or by the fuel importer or producer. Payment could be postponed until the time of sale or transfer of the fuel to a retailer or consumer, in this way, the wholesaler would not be required to pay the ACES fee-1 on unsold inventory, which would encourage increased wholesale fuel storage. However, the fee would not be “collected” from the retailer or consumer as an add-on charge; the fee would be included in the wholesale price of the product in the same way that other expenses incurred by the producer or wholesaler are included in the final price.

The ACES fee-1 would only apply to liquid fuels intended for consumption within the USA. The fee would apply to fuels imported for consumption, but not to fuels exported; U.S. refineries would be allowed to export refined fuels without paying the fee. It would be the responsibility of other countries to operate a similar ACES program, thereby all fuels would be globally subject to an ACES fee, collected and managed by the host country. This does not imply that the U.S. ACES Corporation should be subject to an international body, but international ACES agreements and shared goals would be wise.

Renewable fuels should not be exempt from the ACES fee-1 (other programs managed or funded by the ACES corporation would compensate American renewable fuel producers). All liquid hydrocarbon fuels, sold for consumption in the USA, would be subject to a fee of 10 cents per pound of carbon content within the fuel.

The U.S. transportation sector* consumes about 220 billion gallons of liquid hydrocarbon fuel per year. Alcohol fuels contain less than 5.5 pounds of carbon per gallon, but diesel and jet fuel contain more. So, for illustration assume an average of 5.5 pounds of carbon per gallon of fuel. At 10 cents per pound, the ACES fee-1 would average 55 cents per gallon, and total ACES fee-1 revenue would be about: (220 billion gallons multiplied by 55 cents per gallon equals) 120 billion dollars per year.

No Negative Economic Impact

If the ACES Fee-1 adds 120 billion dollars to the cost of U.S. transportation fuels, that would hurt. And, if the price of transportation fuel was stable, then that would be the case; but fuel prices are not stable. In the summer of 2008 fuel prices averaged 4 dollars per gallon nationally and $5 per gallon in California. Then prices dropped below $2 per gallon because of the global recession, but then began slowly moving back up to $3 in spite of the continuing recession, threatening to break the 2008 price record before the next Presidential election. The USA is powerless to prevent oil price increases because demand is increasing outside the USA — the Global Economy continues to consume more oil, indicating that demand for oil will soon be greater than world oil production.

The ACES fee-1 will stabilize fuel prices, and thereby “pay for itself” — a counterintuitive idea, maybe, but one that will become as obvious as a backfire quelling a wildfire, once it is put into action. Obvious, because the ACES fee-1 will unleash the development of synthetic alcohol and other synthetic fuels made from non-petroleum hydrocarbons, which the USA has in abundance.

Replacing petroleum dependent gasoline with non-petroleum American made fuels would completely eliminate dependence on OPEC oil—and set an example for the world to follow.

The technology required to produce synthetic alcohol in large enough quantities to replace 100% of the gasoline that U.S. automobiles consume every year already exists. It is no secret that alcohol is superior to gasoline as a transportation fuel, a fact that was discovered and proven by scientists as early as 1906.

Methanol, a synthetic alcohol, is a preferred fuel for race cars because it is safer and produces greater combustion horsepower, per unit of fuel energy (measured in BTU’s or Joules), than gasoline when powering an engine optimized for alcohol.

Unlike race cars, the spark ignition internal combustion engines in automobiles are optimized for gasoline, not alcohol, because gasoline was significantly cheaper than alcohol and widely available for most of the 20th century. However, when the retail price of gasoline rises above $2 per gallon, synthetic methanol made from non-petroleum hydrocarbons will cost U.S. drivers less than gasoline (based on miles driven per dollar spent for fuel).

Opposition to expanding methanol production for the purpose of replacing gasoline is entirely political, there are no technology barriers—methanol can be produced from USA natural gas, biomass, coal and oil shale on a scale equal to the current volume of gasoline consumed in the United States.

Methanol is produced worldwide today using natural gas or coal as the base carbon source (feedstock). Technology also exists for large scale production of methanol from biomass. And, catalysts are currently being developed that will soon allow a shift from methanol to synthetic ethanol production.


Alcohol Engine mandate for all new vehicles having a spark ignition engine

The ACES Corporation mandate should also require that all new cars and trucks having a spark ignition internal combustion engine be optimized for pure alcohol fuel; and that the use of gasoline for transportation fuel will be phased out. The Alcohol Engine offers a direct route to energy independence: there are no technology or cost barriers. Federal Legislation giving ACES authority to mandate and guide the transition to Alcohol engines and Alcohol transportation fuels should be created and implemented without delay.

An Alcohol engine is an internal combustion engine (ICE) designed to run on pure alcohol, which an E85 flex-fuel ICE won’t do, or will only do inefficiently. An ICE optimized for pure alcohol will be 30-40% more fuel efficient than an ICE that is optimized for gasoline and E85. Automotive Engineers know that gasoline cannot fuel an ICE optimized for pure alcohol, because if gasoline is used in high compression internal combustion engines it will cause the engine to “knock” (loud pinging noise) which can damage or destroy the engine. Gasoline engines must be designed less efficient to prevent engine knock.

Electric Motors or Alcohol Engines — can we have both? Yes, of course we can. A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is a combination of an Electric Vehicle using an electric motor and a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE). The Alcohol Engine is an ICE. There is, however, reason to be concerned. We may already be witnessing a political replay, taken from the Hydrogen hype playbook. The coming of the electric car is over-hyped. Political advocates of electric vehicles are ignoring the warnings, just like the Hydrogen advocates a few years ago. The danger is that such high expectations will cause other technologies to be ignored or rejected; as seen in the fact that many Electric Vehicle advocates oppose biofuels, proclaiming instead the universal vision of a world where electric only transportation is available to everyone. Look back five or six years, and you will see the same advocates heralding the Hydrogen Economy to the exclusion of everything else. Let’s not make that mistake again.

A market for Methanol cars was growing in California until the Hydrogen Highway Initiative stole the limelight causing the Methanol program to lose support. Although the demand for Methanol cars in California had been sluggish because the price of gasoline was low and not enough service stations offered Methanol, the program did prove that the cars were reliable and drivers liked them.

Now that the age of cheap oil (gasoline for less $1.50 per gallon) has come to an end, Alcohol cars and trucks should be made available again – and yes, give consumers the option to buy an Alcohol car with an electric drive and plug-in feature (PHEV).

The development of a nationwide alcohol fueling infrastructure with an Alcohol Engine mandate would stabilize the global price of oil; especially when China and India also begin aggressive transition to domestic production of alcohol fuels.

Transition from Gasoline to Sustainable Carbon Neutral Alcohol Fuels

Today, 250 million passenger vehicles are registered in the USA, which amounts to about 25% of all passenger vehicles in the world. Conservative projections estimate that the number of passenger vehicles in the world will increase by one billion before the year 2040. Not so conservative projections suggest the number may be double that—a global increase of two billion cars. In either case, the increase will not be occurring in the USA. Developing countries, primarily China and India, will experience an increase of over one billion cars and trucks during the next 30 years.

Those billion cars and trucks are not likely to be electric—because of cost. A plug-in electric hybrid car (if it is more than a glorified golf cart) will cost ten thousand dollars more than a non-electric version of the same car. The emerging consumer class in India will buy a $4,000 car, not a $40,000 car.

While we should continue full support for the development of both the plug-in electric hybrid and the hydrogen fuel cell technology, we need to push forward with known alternative fuel technology that is proven and can be mass produced today at a cost no more than existing gasoline cars and trucks—and that technology is the Alcohol Engine fueled by American made alcohol.

Rolling out the Alcohol infrastructure with alcohol fuels made from non-petroleum hydrocarbons such as natural gas and biomass, or coal, oil shale and tar sands would insure an abundant supply of fuel. It would be about a 30 year transition from fossil fuel based synthetic alcohol to 100% renewable ethanol. In the meantime, the alcohol distribution infrastructure and alcohol engines using alcohol fuel would rapidly develop throughout the world, compatible with either methanol or ethanol—then when a 100% renewable alcohol fuel supply is available, the alcohol vehicles and fuel infrastructure would already be in-place.

If the ACES Corporation pays 50 billion dollars per year for biochar (500 million tons of biochar at $100 per ton) and takes in $120 billion per year from the ACES fee-1 income, then $120 billion minus $50 billion equals a $70 billion surplus.

Purchasing 500 million tons of biochar is only the beginning — the $70 billion yearly surplus will be used primarily to pay for additional ACES Corporation mandates:

  1. Additional biochar must be purchased. More biochar will be required to neutralize external CO2 emissions released during the production of non-renewable transportation fuels. The production of hydrocarbon fuels—the mining and refining and transport of the fuels—will create and release CO2 into the atmosphere before the fuels are consumed. These additional sources of atmospheric carbon would not be subject to an ACES fee directly, because the ACES fee paid by the fuel wholesaler (based on the carbon content within the fuel) would be sufficient to pay for enough additional biochar to neutralize all external sources of CO2 emissions related to the well-to-tank production and delivery of non-renewable hydrocarbon fuels.
  2. Biochar Sequestration. The land where the biochar will be buried must be purchased, excavated and then the biochar must be mixed in with the excavated dirt and the mixture placed back in the ground; followed by irrigation and planting a cover crop, like switchgrass or fast-growth trees.
  3. Renewable Fuels Carbon Rebate Program. American Farmers and anyone else in the USA producing carbon neutral biofuels (using closed-loop carbon neutral production) will be entitled to a rebate of 10 cents per pound of carbon within the fuel (equal to the ACES fee). The rebate will be paid directly to the producer — but only if production and consumption of the fuel is within the USA — importers and exporters would not be entitled. NOTE: If the diesel fuel consumed by farm equipment during biofuel production is subject to an ACES fee, then it is carbon neutral and qualifies as “closed-loop.”
  4. Assist Development of Rural Co-Operatives. The ACES Corporation will assist the organization and development of biomass methanol production co-operatives throughout rural America, qualifying the co-ops for the Carbon Rebate, and thereby reducing the price of local rural alcohol fuels. ACES Corp will also provide support for Alcohol Engine conversions; as well as the development of rural alcohol fuel distribution infrastructure which would facilitate the use and availability of local Alcohol fuel.
  5. Research and Development (R&D). The ACES Corporation will actively participate in joint R&D with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in key areas:
    •  Natural and Artificial Photosynthesis.
    •  Biochar production and soil enhancement science.
    •  Enhanced Algae biomass growth and harvesting technology.
    •  Development of low-cost portable gasification and pyrolysis equipment.
    •  Development of low-cost high-efficiency portable water electrolysis equipment.
    •  Development of low-cost high-efficiency portable methanol production equipment.
    •  Development of Catalysts for thermochemical conversion of synthesis gas to Ethanol.

Continue reading on next page ——> ACES 2

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