President’s Forceful Climate Plan Focuses on Technology

A thick plume of smoke rising from a chimney stack at a coal-fueled power plant, Fernandina Beach, Florida, USA

(DGIwire) — It’s no secret that the United States is a major contributor to global emissions. In fact, as of late 2014, the United States was second only to China with regard to pollution, according to an article in The Guardian. Surveys show that many Americans are simply not willing to give up the lifestyles that lead to a heavy carbon footprint. A study conducted by National Geographic found that only 20 percent of Americans were “very concerned” about environmental problems.

But personal use of resources is not the only, or even the primary, cause of emissions. Coal- and gas-fired power plants account for some 40 percent of U.S. contribution to global warming, according to The Guardian. In the past, big business outweighed environmental groups on the political hierarchy, and legislation was battled into ineffectiveness. There has been some improvement, but not nearly enough.

President Obama set out along the path to change that in August 2015, when he announced what the White House characterized as the strongest clean power plan in United States history. According to the White House, the proposed regulations aim is to reduce power sector carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

White House adviser Brian Deese told reporters in Washington, DC that the Environmental Protection Agency rules represented the biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change.

This strong stance may prompt what environmental organizations have called a tsunami of litigation from energy companies. But some say that this time the old tricks won’t fly. Foes of the clean power plan have admitted they hope to gum up the works for the EPA with their barrage of litigation, but they are likely to lose, according to David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the National Resources Defense Council.

“Critics of the new regulations should be aware of a key fact: today, there are many new technologies that enable industries to productively use carbon dioxide to make valuable chemicals that companies can then sell for a profit,” says Alain Castro, CEO of Ener-Core, Inc. “Similarly, today there are new technologies available that can convert low-quality methane waste gases directly into clean energy, which companies can also sell for a profit. We believe that the only way to really induce a rapid reduction in industrial greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time ensuring that the underlying industries will remain competitive, is to find productive uses for the emissions. John D. Rockefeller already proved this back in the 1880s; for example, where others had considered the by-products of refining oil for kerosene as a waste (many kerosene producers dumped gasoline in rivers), Rockefeller and his partners found ways to use gasoline for fuel and tar for paving. Here we are, 130 years later, learning the same lessons as he demonstrated back then. There are methods of monetizing greenhouse gases, such that industries can continue to grow and thrive, while also becoming more environmentally sustainable.   We should learn from the bright leaders of our past, and embrace these types of solutions being developed by the bright technological innovators of our present, as they hold the key to a sustainable future.”

In contrast to emissions destruction systems, Ener-Core’s Power Oxidizer, which has already been commercialized and installed successfully, and has also been issued 23 patents to date, converts waste gases such as low-BTU methane into useful heat and power. These are typically gases that are flared (burned) off by a wide range of industries, as the gases are considered useless (and hence waste) because current power technologies cannot use them as a fuel. By making these low-quality gases “useful,” Ener-Core provides a compelling value proposition, enabling the industries to earn an attractive return on investment and gain a competitive edge by reducing their costs of operations. Ener-Core recently announced the receipt of a $2.1 million purchase order and initial license payment from Dresser-Rand, a Siemens company, for two units of Ener-Core’s next-generation Power Oxidizers, to be integrated with Dresser-Rand’s KG2-3G gas turbine. The end-customer of these two first next-generation systems is a company called Pacific Ethanol, which has already publicly communicated its plans to reduce its operating costs by $3-4 million/year by using its industrial emissions as a source of fuel to create its on-site power and hence reduce its need to purchase energy from the traditional power utilities.

“Those industries that will ultimately benefit from the new emissions standards will be those that embrace the new technologies look toward the future and not the past,” Castro adds.