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Carbon Dioxide and Its Good Side

carbon dioxideBelieve it or not, carbon dioxide has a good side. Researchers from Aalto University in Finland are using a method that combines carbon dioxide and slag from steel production to create Precipitated Calcium Carbonate (PCC).

Better Carbon Dioxide Management Potential

While the name might not be familiar, you’ll find it in plastics, PVC in vinyl siding and fencing as well as in paper products. It even has applications for calcium supplements and multivitamins.

The process offers several advantages. It uses slag to make it a more valuable by-product. Production also acts like a carbon sink, while reducing the costs of PCC. Researchers estimated that if the industry used all the discarded slag in Europe it would sequester about 6 Mt CO2/year.

Get the Whole Story

The PCC story offers a valuable lesson. As I’ve written before, there are few things in this life that are simply black and white, right or wrong. Carbon dioxide is one of them. Yes, carbon dioxide is the major player in climate change. However, it doesn’t need to be eliminated; it needs to be managed.

We have to lift ourselves from the fog of confirmation bias to see the whole story. We can’t talk rationally about climate change if we ignore the facts that we don’t like. We can’t fixate on the problems that carbon dioxide might cause and ignore the potential it has for other applications.

You can say the same about oil. Many condemn fossil fuels, as they step into their cars and drive to work or someplace fun. But oil also has other applications that are valuable in our lives, including:

  • Antiseptics
  • Heart values
  • Insecticides
  • Artificial limbs
  • Anesthetics

It’s important to consider all of the applications to understand the impacts of our decisions. I personally am grateful for heart valves. I wouldn’t have my husband otherwise. But I’m glad for toothpaste, petroleum jelly, deodorant, paint, and ice cube trays too.

Beef also produces a myriad of by-products. Where do you think bone china, camel hair artist brushes, insulin, and drugs like epinephrine come from? Carbon dioxide, oil, and beef all provide great examples of uber-recycling. We have these products and by-products—and let’s be honest, their cost-saving—because of the primary products.

I’m not advocating by any means that we ignore climate change. What I am suggesting is that we discuss solutions with all the impacts on the table. It doesn’t make sense to ignore the unintended consequences if you know they may arise. Let’s use our heads when talking climate change solutions. Our approach needs to consider the by-products as well. Chris DR

photo credit: via photopin cc

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