Sustainable Transportation Fuels – Recycling Waste CO2 to Fuels


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Session 3 in the Future of Sustainable Transportation Fuels webinar series hosted by the Environmental Law Institute will feature a presentation on the emerging technological possibilities for captured CO2 from waste streams (or directly from the atmosphere) and how to use it as a pre-concentrated carbon source to produce transportation fuels. This process falls in the space of “carbon capture and utilization,” or CCU.

CO2-to-Fuels is a research trajectory where the policy risks are unknown because of its intersection with complex politics of mitigating the risk of climate change and constructing carbon policy. Some think affordable CO2-to-fuels would be a major feat of science and engineering that is achievable – others question both achievability and the wisdom of a technology that recycles the carbon back to the fuels system.

A conceptual risk is that CO2 is now by law treated as a pollutant leading to a primary focus on two choices, either CO2-free technologies or permanent sequestration. An alternative paradigm is waste management, which suggests adding recycling and reuse and even seeking opportunities for the waste product to be economically profitable and environmentally neutral if the right technologies are developed and deployed in a specific policy environment. The conversation could consider the implications of the impact on creating new options for policy makers to respond to and whether this can create a rapid and economically efficient response to CO2 emission control or slow down the transition by either not permanently sequestering the CO2 or extending the life of high emitters.

Dr.  Thomas Seager (moderator) conducts research related to environmental decision making and life-cycle environmental impacts of alternative energy technologies. He currently leads a project funded by the National Science Foundation that applies game theory to develop new strategies for teaching ethical reasoning skills relevant to sustainability, science, and engineering graduate students. He joined the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University in 2010, and has previously taught at Rochester Institute of Technology and Purdue University.

Dr. Klaus Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and a professor at Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. Dr. Lackner’s recent research interests include closing the carbon cycle by capturing carbon dioxide from the air, carbon sequestration, carbon foot-printing, and innovations in energy and infrastructure systems.

Dr. James E. Miller (Jim) is a chemical engineer who has been involved in energy, materials, and chemical processing research at Sandia National Laboratories for over 23 years. His work has touched on diverse topics ranging from hydroprocessing, to oxidation, lignin depolymerization, treatment of radioactive waste and automobile exhaust, and desalination. Over recent years his efforts have been largely focused on solar thermochemistry for the production of synthetic fuels from carbon dioxide and water, and for the past year on metal oxide-based thermochemical energy storage.

Timothy Zenk is the Executive Vice President of Business Development for Algenol and formerly served as senior vice president of corporate development for Sapphire Energy, Inc. Zenk has years of leadership and notable success with public and privately held companies, including Sapphire Energy, Edelman Global, and Telecommunications Systems.  In addition, he has held key roles in government, working for presidential administrations, U.S. congressional members and state governors.

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