My three prior columns explaining ways of converting atmospheric CO 2 into liquid fuels ran in July 2008, June 2012, and October 2018. The early ideas started by scrubbing CO 2 from the air with an absorbent compound such as sodium hydroxide in water, isolating the CO 2 , cracking it into carbon monoxide, and then hydrogenating it via various catalytic reactions such as Fischer–Tropsch. Capital and energy input costs doomed these ideas.
Ionic salts and formic-acid fuel cells running in reverse helped bring the projected energy input cost down to around $5–$8/gallon when I wrote my second column. Then Carbon Engineering (with backing from Bill Gates) leveraged pulp/paper mill tech to drop the CO 2 -scrubbing cost to about the price established for carbon-offset credits by the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Combined with anticipated drops in the cost of the proton-exchange membranes that were to provide the clean hydrogen, Carbon Engineering reckoned the per-gallon fuel price would fall to within 50 percent of higher 2018 pump prices.
Now Prometheus Fuels is aiming three new silver bullets at this problem:
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