Public Comment

Commentary: Real Solutions Needed for Greenhouse Gases

By James Singmaster
Friday November 30, 2007

Richard Brenneman’s comment in Nov. 20 issue of the Planet continues to point to the deficiencies of the BP grant and agrofuel programs, but the real deficiency has gotten little mention until Dr. J. Overpeck’s statement on the last IPCC report in the San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 18. In the front page article, Dr. Overpeck, director of the University of Arizona, Institute for the Study of Planet Earth and member of the IPCC, is cited as saying “It’s going to get warmer” from industrial emissions remaining in the atmosphere for decades to centuries without making mention of new emissions that will be adding to raise the level of greenhouse gases (GHGs) mainly carbon dioxide. The real issue that has to be addressed to get some control of global warming is finding a means to remove some of the 35 percent overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. In the same article, Dr. S. Schneider of Stanford cited that overload in the article as being the main cause of warming seen in the last 40-50 years. Almost all proposals for curbing of emissions from vehicles and power plants, which still allows some adding to that 35 percent, and for growing agrofuels, which allow a lot of non-energy generating recycling of that gas, do nothing to remove any of that 35 percent. 

Again I call attention to my commentaries on June 12 and Oct. 26, in which the pyrolysis process is detailed to be applied to our wasted agrofuel crop dumped in our massive organic waste disposal program. That costs megabucks in maintaining the dumps or in composting, where we allow carbon dioxide to be reemitted needlessly after nature had so kindly trapped it for us in biochemicals. The frenzied call for agrofuels totally ignores how much land and water will be getting usurped from food production, which will be avoided by using our organic wastes as agrofuels. The pyrolysis process as detailed can be set up for none of that gas to be given off needlessly as all the carbon goes to charcoal for burial or organic chemicals useful for making drug and plastics. 

The benefits that can be realized using this process are enormous for both the economy and the environment. We would be removing some carbon dioxide from ever getting reemitted via biodegradation. We could get some energy free of needless emissions of GHGs, especially with the development of splitting water to get hydrogen, which was recently reported by Max Plank Inst. scientists. We would kick our oil addiction retaining megabucks sent to foreign countries having leaders with little friendliness to America. With the heating used in pyrolysis, we would destroy the hazardous germs and toxics in our massive waste disposal mess while recovering megabucks spent in maintaining dumps to prevent the escape of those hazards. And in time we would eliminate any new environmental messes of coal mining as well as the ever increasing losses of lives in coal mining. 

Along with pyrolysis, we should greatly expand our use of windmills to collect some energy from the brisker winds being caused by the excess of released heat energy from our fossil fuelishness, and that released energy stays trapped on the globe by the GHGs. The last IPCC report and the UN-SEG report from Sigma Xi out last spring warn of greater wind velocity causing damage and soil erosion, so why not reap the wind for electricity generation. Several groups are now calling for a ban on new coal fired power plants and should call for windmills to generate much of our future electricity. 

Unfortunately, those reports only talk of curbing emissions that will do nothing to reduce the overloads of heat energy and carbon dioxide already causing all the problems described in the reports with the authors’ warnings of the problems getting worse. The pyrolysis process as I have somewhat detailed will give us a means to start removing those overloads albeit slowly. That is how we have to get control of the real global warming cause. The pyrolysis process is the alternative for sustainability and for getting control of the real global warming cause that the emission curbing and agrofuels proposals can not achieve. 


Fremont resident James Singmaster is a retired environmental toxicologist.