You can’t be serious

As a magazine purporting to engage the interest of engineers and scientists, your editorial can be surprisingly unchallenging — especially your letters pages.

The Greenhouse Effect, greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, climate change and saving the planet are not serious cornerstones of science. After all, The Engineer is not a magazine for lifestyle junkies.

Although it is true that the greenhouse gas issue has given an enormous financial boost to trade and industry in developed countries, the proposition itself is political rather than scientific. It may benefit those of us who are being supported by public funds to deal with this bogus subject — but remember, the rest of the population has to pay for it.

It is, therefore, a good idea for engineers to stop and think about an incredibly successful existing technology originally designed to use solar energy to synthesise atmospheric carbon dioxide with water into a wide range of products, including oil. This extremely complex process has enormous benefits, the only downside being the space needed for the necessary light-gathering arrays.

The upside is that the technology is very cheap to install and as long as there is enough water available for the process, large quantities of oil can be created.

One big benefit of this process is that, although the photo-chemical reaction does produce a highly corrosive gas, these emissions quickly dissipate into the atmosphere where they are neutralised by air-breathing organisms.

Another is that the equipment can be changed or modified at very little cost to produce large quantities of biomass which can be also be used for food.

But this carbon-fixing equipment only works properly if there is sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Cosmologically speaking, since CO2 is an extremely rare gas and not particularly plentiful on Earth, it is foolish to try and reduce its already tiny percentage in the atmosphere.

The CO2 — H2O synthesising process may be cheap but it uses a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere, and if the current levels happened to fall, the whole photo-chemical process would become impossible.

Justin Gudgeon

by email