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and now hopes to market its techniques to oil companies and others.
Experimentation with this technique is still in its early stages; according
to one report, David Keith, the president of this company, “says he thinks
it may be possible to lower the cost of capture toward $100 a ton as the
company grows.” 41 Because the study of this technology is at such an
early stage and its potential use so expensive, we cannot presume to rely
on it in a large scale in the near future. Yet in his mission to find out how
to create an energy system that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions
90 percent in the United Kingdom by 2030, George Monbiot suggests
that that nation get half of its power for electricity from plants that burn
natural gas (not coal) while using capture and storage technology. Think
about it: he's suggesting that half of the electricity come from a technology
that he admits is largely untested . Does that sound like a solid plan to you?
But what other choice does he have? Renewable energy of other kinds
won't supply enough power to keep Britain going. His dilemma is typical
of this entire discussion. We need technologies we do not have, and we
need them yesterday. 42
Luckily, bad news of this sort is not the whole story. Other technolo-
gies at first do not seem promising but on a second look turn out to be
potentially helpful. Biofuels—fuels created from trees or plants—are
technologically viable, but creating an incentive for people to tear out
native ecosystems and grow crops to be sold for this purpose—especially
in Brazil, where their planting has helped destroy vital ecosystems—
undermines the whole purpose of this transition, which is to sustain and
enhance the ecosystems we still have. 43 Removing crops for food and
replacing them with plants for biofuel can also lower the food supply and
raise food prices around the world. 44 A more responsible and sustainable
practice of using only waste products or byproducts of farming or forest
management might work, if conducted very carefully, but would produce
only a fraction of the energy we need.
But a related alternative to biofuels has great promise. Burning the
methane emissions from public landfills, sewage plants, and farms
addresses two problems at once: it reduces those emissions and trans-
forms them into a locally sustaining form of energy. The technology is
readily available; catle and pig farmers use this technology to burn
manure to generate electricity for their own use or for sale back into the
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