Today’s Solutions: September 22, 2021

The air-conditioner has become somewhat of a poster child for climate change, cooling your home while eating lots of energy and spewing heat and emissions into the atmosphere. But what if we could weaponize air conditioning units to help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere instead? According to a new paper in Nature, it’s feasible. Using technology currently in development, AC units in skyscrapers and even your home could get turned into machines that not only capture CO2, but transform the stuff into a fuel for powering vehicles that are difficult to electrify, like cargo ships. The concept, called crowd oil, is still theoretical and faces many challenges. For instance, retrofitting an air conditioner to capture CO2 and turn it into fuel would require an extensive overhaul of the components. Plus, in order for the whole process to be carbon neutral, all those souped-up air conditioner would need to be powered with renewables. Despite all this, there is one potential charm of this AC carbon-capture scenario that could push it forward, and that is that it addresses a common problem faced by carbon capture and storage systems (CCS), which is that someone has to pay for it. A business that captures and locks away its CO2 has nothing to sell, but AC units that turn CO2 into fuel would theoretically come with a revenue stream. And when there’s a market for something, there’s definitely a possibility of making it happen. For now, us here at the Optimist Daily will keep an eye for any developments regarding this promising solution.

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