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An uplifting list of environmental trends

A View From the Edge

Did you know that spreading rock dust on a farmer’s field helps capture carbon into the soil and helps farmers use less (synthetic, oil-derived) fertilizers? It all starts with the fact that there is more carbon, including CO2, locked up in the soil than in the entire atmosphere. Plants depend on carbon in the soil as their building blocks. Apply crushed silicate rock (quarry dust) and you sequester carbon, in the soil. The calcium and magnesium in the rock capture CO2 in the air and lock it into the soil. Better plants, reduced atmospheric CO2.

What to do with that old mine shaft? Turn it into a battery. Put a huge weight, maybe 100 tons, on an elevator system down those abandoned mine shafts. Use excess daylight power or atomic energy to raise the weight by powering the lift generator, drop the weight, spinning a generator in reverse and you have power. In some ways better than a hydroelectric batteries (dam), the mine lift system can produce fast electricity, balancing supply, or slow release — all of these instantly controlled. The gravity formula is E=MGH.

Concrete is a major pollution source for CO2. Now, imagine if you could reduce the amount of concrete needed for each concrete block, each concrete pour, yet maintain volume and strength? 

That’s what several companies are doing in Europe. Taking factory ash, waste from coal burning, wood burning, and other processed residue, they mix the ash with a little water, then add CO2 taken from the air — all in a sealed container. Exothermic reaction results as all the CO2 is chemically bonded with the ash and the end results are hard little knobs or pellets of aggregate to be mixed with cement to make concrete. Lighter, easier to mold, these are the building blocks of tomorrow — using the waste ash and excess CO2 thereby reducing global CO2 and waste in landfills.

The problem with nuclear energy — whether fission or fusion (soon coming to a power grid near you) — is the danger of pressurized-water reactors to heat normal water to then drive turbines to make electricity. If something goes wrong with the contaminated radioactive water pressurized pipes you have massive explosive energy resulting in 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl or the Fukushima disaster. 

Yes, it was that water, steam pressure, that caused the breakouts. Now scientists have found that they can use salt instead. Never explosive as steam, the salt melts into a lava-like flow, transferring energy through special alloy tubes to the water turbines. Something goes wrong? The whole thing is contained, never leaking beyond the actual building.

And last, biochar or black gold, as it is being called. If you make your own charcoal in a sealed container using all your bio waste (yes, kitchen waste, grass cuttings, straw, fast-growing bamboo, torn-down building materials), you end up with charcoal. Place that in the soil and you are locking in — and fertilizing — up to 6% of all human CO2 emissions. And, what’s even better, you are building the soil back, growing more food.


Writer Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now resides in New Mexico.

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