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While efforts are on-going to find out more environmentally friendly solutions to energy production and supply one factor that we have to contend with is that the current energy production technologies, primarily coal, are here to stay for much longer (BP in its 2007 report, estimated that there were several billion tons of proven coal reserves worldwide, or 147 reserves-to-production years in the case of coal) than we desire, emitting enormous amounts of greenhouse gases such as CO2 into the atmosphere concurrently.

A solution to CO2 emissions can be found by tackling the issue at either the source of generation or after consumption.

At source:

Power generation accounts for about one-quarter of total emissions of the total CO2 emitted. Coal fired plants accounts for more than 40% of the world CO2 emissions, making it the largest among the fossil-fuel power stations that includes natural gas and petroleum.

COUNTY Millions of tons of CO2 % CO2 Per capita emissions (tons)
U.S. 2800 33.6 17.5
China 2700 32.3 5.3
Russia 661 7.92 12.1
India 583 6.96 1.4
Japan 400 4.76 9.5
Germany 356 4.23 9.6
Australia 226 2.7 18.9
South Africa 222 2.65 8.8
UK 212 2.53 8.5
South Korea 185 2.22 10.6

Souce:  %CO2 data; The on-line database, compiled by the Center for Global Development (CGD)

               Per capita emission; CDIAC

 

Accordign to the CGD report; One surprise in the data is that the biggest emitters of CO2 in the world in absolute terms are located not in the rich world but in rapidly emerging economies with massive coal-fired plants.

Fuel TWh %CO2 emission
Coal 41,354 43
Oil 46,847 37
Gas 33,240 20

Source: IEA, *in 2009, 2010 BP*

Source filtration and removal of CO2 requires technologies such as CCS which are seen as prohibitive cost-wise by most utilities. Though CCS is a viable solution, the technology has to mature before we see any headway in its implementation.

 

Post consumption:

Utilizing CO2 from the atmosphere, in-effect reducing its concentration which results in lowering the greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere can be a solution.

Would it not be worthwhile to find methodologies to reverse engineer the emitted CO2 back into fuel. To this effect, some scientists, biotech firms and leading research institutions are trying to find viable ways to make this possible. The pictorial below shows some of the processes that are currently being researched upon that could provide a solution to this burning issue.

Fig CO2 to energy