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Virgin Earth Challenge - $25M

$25 Million for Baking Out CO2
 
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"The Virgin Earth Challenge is a prize of $25m for whoever can demonstrate to the judges' satisfaction a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate."

Sir Richard Branson and former US Vice President Al Gore just announced this. See link.

baconbrain, Feb 09 2007

Virgin Earth Challenge http://www.virginearth.com/
The official site. [baconbrain, Feb 09 2007]

HHO video http://gadgetcrunch.net/?cat=11
[daseva, Feb 10 2007]

Tree Planting doesn't work... http://www.newbuild...llStory.asp?ID=1827
... except in the tropics [xenzag, Feb 12 2007]

USA = we want everything ! http://www.worldpop...op/energy/index.php
USA- the greediest nation on earth [xenzag, Feb 13 2007]

Technology: Evil or *really* evil? Discuss it here. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/overbaked/
[jutta, Feb 15 2007]

Richard Watson http://www.guardian.../0,,2012299,00.html
the real solution lies with folk like this [xenzag, Feb 15 2007]

Idea Saves Planet! Do You Have One? http://greenchallenge.info/
The PICNIC Green Challenge is calling on creative minds to come up with solutions to fight global climate change. The prize is EUR 500,000. The deadline for idea submissions is 30 August, 2007. [jurist, Aug 08 2007]

[link]






       It would be funny if we could combine 50 or 100 existing halfbakery ideas in order to create a CO2 remover. If it's "commercially viable", they'll pretty much have to bake them, don't you think?   

       Then we'll finally have our Hullaballoon, 50-mile-long bird feeder seesaw, Two Coffee Cups thing, Fart Colorizer, and everything else that can be made out of the CO2 machine parts.
phundug, Feb 09 2007
  

       Fascinating, but the honor falls to me to be the first to point out that this is inappropriate for the 'bakery.
normzone, Feb 09 2007
  

       I think it's fine. It's a little specific and non-halfbaked and I could do without the advertising, but the price is really large, it's a topic of general interest to a lot of halfbakers, and it's not like this category is overflowing with traffic.
jutta, Feb 09 2007
  

       Amongst the Terms and Conditions: "The removal achieved by the Design must have long term benefits (measured over say 1,000 years) and must contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate." The word "measured" (as opposed to "measurable") worries me. Frankly we'd be a lot better off just investing a dollar today and then waiting.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 09 2007
  

       Damn. And I thought it was finally my turn. Oh well, at least I got to refer somebody to the help file last week.
normzone, Feb 09 2007
  

       I think the ocean iron fortification plan has the best chance of accomplishing this goal, cheaply.
bungston, Feb 09 2007
  

       If Branson kept his fleet of planes on the ground it would be a start, but the focus of the whole notion is diversionary... it's a bit like adding bleach to ink stained water in order to make it run clear again.   

       Stop sending so much C02 into the atmosphere instead of imagining that you can keep doing it, if only there was a magical way of extracting it back out again.   

       It's crap logic, that favours even more pollution and I for one am "agin it'. I can't stand Branson - he's a smarmy arse. Gore should know better than to be part of this naive, greenwashed drivel, which is just another marketing tool for Virgin products.   

       Go on, call me cynical. I'll take it as a compliment.
xenzag, Feb 10 2007
  

       [cynical], you have your points. But, I would suggest considering what has become of similar challenges in the past. The X PRIZE got us a cool plane, and Ghiberti's doors aren't all that bad, either. Hey, how about this HHO stuff? (linky)
daseva, Feb 10 2007
  

       Yeah well, it doesn't look any different than the joecell does it?. Google it, and google water powered cars. people have been doing this since the seventies.   

       It seems to me that the only sensible thing to do is plant more trees and lots of them, I mean lots.
zeno, Feb 10 2007
  

       anthropogenic CO2 sounds bad, What's it made of? This is going to be hard sorting the good natural CO2 from the bad Anthropogenic kind. I should study up on my homopathic science. As I recall they say that the water has a memory of it's surounding molecules. The anthropogenic CO2 probably has a tortured memory of the rich industrialist that must be responsible for creating it. We can probably round up all the CO2 and test it on plants and animals to see which kind it is. They will surely have a reaction like getting cancer or growing ten times as big and start glowing or something if it is the antropogenic kind.
MercuryNotMars, Feb 10 2007
  

       The challenge doesn't specify CO2 directly, although CO2 is recognised as the primary contributor, there are other gases that are antropogenic, greenhouse gases. Since SF6 is in a recent idea (room full of SF6), it is notable that it has about 25,000 times more greenhouse effect.
Ling, Feb 10 2007
  

       well done Mrs Branson - apparently it was her idea.
po, Feb 10 2007
  

       Mrs. B. is very under-appreciated then. I bet she didn't even get credit for the pickle recipe.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 10 2007
  

       I too am going to sound cynical, but so bit it.   

       Richard Branson is an incredible self- publicist. I'd like to think that this is all about saving the planet, but I feel sure much of it is about publicising the Virgin Brand. Somewhat hypocritical to be giving *just* $25m when his airlines, trains and car sales companies are contributing so dangerously to the problem.   

       Also, this prize award seems to infer that a single idea, a single genius might solve the impending environmental chaos. Truthfully, this is a problem for us all to solve, by significantly changing the way we all live.   

       So, don't give this prize another thought. Don't put energy into thinking how you might solve the planet's environmental woes. *Do* put the same energy into making changes in your own life to reduce your own carbon footprint.   

       If we all do it, we've got a chance.
jonthegeologist, Feb 10 2007
  

       I think that is a tad unfair - its a wake-up call if nothing else, from someone who is world famous.   

       I believe there are smaller prizes for more minor ideas for healing the world.   

       its better than doing nothing at all which seems to be the case at present.
po, Feb 10 2007
  

       I agree with bungston, but this poses the question 'at what price?'. Would it be worth reducing greenhouse gases if the method severely impacted ocean ecology?   

       Similarly, almost any other 'solution' that I can think of will have some adverse (or at least changing) effect. Is any solution worse than the problem itself? Is the point of the prize to highlight this secondary question (rather than the primary question of how to remove greenhouse gases) ???
xaviergisz, Feb 10 2007
  

       [Xavier]//Would it be worth reducing greenhouse gases if the method severely impacted ocean ecology?//   

       One of the criteria against which entries will be judged is: "(f) harmful effects and/or other incidental consequences of the solution" which suggests that this has already been thought of.   

       I'm neither for nor against Mr. B as a person, and I agree there is probably a large element of self-promotion in this, but I agree with Gumbob, Po and others in thinking that, regardless of the motivation behind it, it has at least raised people's awareness and may also motivate people who otherwise would not be likely to propose ideas.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 10 2007
  

       Since we're on the subject, has anyone seen a well-thought-out explanation as to why the simple model we were taught in school is not widely discussed, and seems not to be a significant factor?:   

       (Animals breathe in O2, breathe out CO2, whilst plants take in CO2 and produce O2. Therefore if an overage of CO2 exists, plants will find it easier to grow, hence absorbing the excess CO2.)   

       I'm sure this is naive, but I find it odd that I haven't seen reference to this effect in the hugely politicized discussion.
csea, Feb 10 2007
  

       A 'no' vote with an explanation: using technology to fix problems created by technology is an oxymoron. What needs to be changed is behavior on a number of levels, especially the corporate profit mentality and government action that supports those interests over all else.
nuclear hobo, Feb 10 2007
  

       [csea] -the "overage" of CO2 has been discussed, especially in resepct to poison ivy, which apparently is more limited by lack of CO2 that is the case for other plants.   

       How about this for a scheme: Tundrea and boreal regions are warming up. Day lengths are long near the poles, and if it warm enough things grow like mad. I propose that forests be planted in areas previously too cold to support them. Most of these forests will simply be extensions of forests already existing at lower latitudes. The forests will get there eventually anyway, so we would just be giving them a leg up. Forests will sequester more CO2.
bungston, Feb 10 2007
  

       //using technology to fix problems created by technology is an oxymoron//   

       Well, grammatically speaking it isn't.   

       But I disagree with the sentiment anyway for two reasons. First, the reality is that people always want more, and will find ways of getting more. As a species we invariably choose (and have always chosen) high-energy technologies because they do things we like. If the only way to get more is to find a technological patch, then that is what they will do, and we ought to at least make sure it's a good patch. Restraint is alas only an interim solution.   

       Second, the underlying sentiment is that technology is inherently bad. Why, exactly *is* it wrong to fix a technological problem with a technological solution?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 10 2007
  

       //First, the reality is that people always want more, and will find ways of getting more// - then this is what needs changed. I do not accept that this is true, like some sort of categorical imperative. (see Kant)   

       Not everyone wants more of everything, except greed merchants like Richard Branson. If he is so concerned, let him give people free travel on his trains instead - he could afford this with ease, and set a noble trend.
xenzag, Feb 10 2007
  

       //I do not accept that this is true// Well, OK, we can agree to differ. On the other hand, there's all of human history to consider. I'm not saying it's necessarily right, just that it's the way it is and I do not think we are likely to change in the twinkling of a century.   

       Suppose you have three alternatives: (a) you give up technology (b) you keep using technology even though it is screwing up the planet or (c) you try to improve technology so that it screws up the planet less. People will go for option (c) if they can; if all you offer them is option (a), though, they'll just stick with option (b).   

       I guess I just don't think that endless mea culpas by a minority are going to solve a problem which is caused by the majority.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 10 2007
  

       Branson is certainly full of himself, but I think it is hardly fair to blame the airline, rather than the passengers. For that matter, how about blaming the Internet for the rise in datacenter power consumption.   

       There may not be a miracle cure, but industrial innovation is actually more likely to solve the problem than any other approach.
theircompetitor, Feb 10 2007
  

       Playing off of [bungston]'s last comment I wonder if someone shows that the planet is in equalibrium if they get a prize.   

       If there is no such promise isn't there no incintive to conclude such a thing? Is this prize a forgone conclusion?   

       What if a rise in temperature and more greenhouse gasses causes greenhouse gasses to be eleminated and temperatures to fall?   

       My science teacher went round and round with me back in 8th grade without giving me the answer. He said that the wobble in the tilt is responsible for ice ages. as the planet alligns you have warmer winters and cooler summers. I was confused about this which causes massive ice sheets? Colder winters or cooler summers? it is neither. Warmer winters allow for more precip. in the winter.   

       What I understand about CO2 global warming says warmer winters and unaffected summers. Longer growing seasons increased crop production due to CO2 advantage to crops. People build dykes all the time and people get flooded out all the time. I am sure Anthropogenic causes greatly affect the environment because we are dealing with Chaos theory. We have individually and severally been responsible for both Major disasters and the aversion of major disasters through our own infinitesimal input. It doesn't concern me if it is natural or not. Natural is an ocasional Metiorite mass extinction. I hope we plan on antropogenically averting such a thing.   

       Anthropogenic has got nothing to do with it. if we want our climite like we have been used to. then we will make it that way. Though people have built for nothing changing, I am not convinced it is worth the effort.   

       I want to divert the mississippi out west to west texas, new mexico and Arid-zona and constantly recycle CO2, probably have it piped in to algae farms It could work a lot like coal only a bit cleaner. Maybe do some biodesiel. If some rich guy wants to sequester some carbon I would be happy to sell him some and bury it for him for the right price.
MercuryNotMars, Feb 10 2007
  

       I first need to develop a catalyst that converts atmospheric methane to ammonia and does it at "room temperature". Once I have that, I'll sell the rights to you for $1 million and good luck winning Virgin's challenge.
reensure, Feb 11 2007
  

       That would be cool My Roomate who was a chemistery major talked about some sort of "catylist" for fusion reactions. Once he figures that out I will steal it from him and maybe you can work it from there and get back to me. That would be impressive. I understand that antimatter can be used to start of fission reactions. I just figure there has got to be an easier way though.
MercuryNotMars, Feb 11 2007
  

       //"catylist" for fusion reactions// Muons, I believe, are the thing. They are effectively very heavy electrons, and they help tritium and deuterium nuclei get close enough together (as a D-T-µ ensemble) to fuse. The main problem as I understand it is that the muon has a short half-life, and hence even though the muons are only catalytic in the fusion reaction, they still need to be replenished, and energy needed to make them is less than the yield from the fusion.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2007
  

       /Muons, I believe, are the thing./   

       [Maxwell], please consider appending this line on your personal identification page. It could go right under the single line you already have there.
bungston, Feb 13 2007
  

       That may be. He didn't know of anything but simply thought there should be something analogous to a catalyst.   

       I think it would be much easier to manufacture ammonia as we have been and burn and bind the methane. That has got to be easier than going from carbon into nitrogen.
MercuryNotMars, Feb 13 2007
  

       \\ but I think it is hardly fair to blame the airline, rather than the passengers\\ [tc], you have a point that the customers have a degree of blameworthiness, but to reject the airline's culpability is like exonerating a drug dealer for catering to the demands of his clients.
hidden truths, Feb 13 2007
  

       "Al Gore's environmental activism comes with a hefty price tag" says the Daily Mail. The former presidential candidate turned climate change campaigner was invited to speak this week at the Tyndall Centre for climate change research. Mr Gore would be pleased to attend if they paid him £85,000 and three first-class return air fares from the US. Apparently they couldn't afford him.
po, Feb 13 2007
  

       hidden truths, this argument, taken to its logical extremes, is an absurdity. Should ambulances be driven by horses? Do you know if your computer is driven by electricity from a fossil fuel reactor? It's another flavor of a back to golden age argument that proved a loser during the industrial revolution, and will continue to lose.
theircompetitor, Feb 13 2007
  

       True, but you admit that you're taking the argument to its extreme. Everything in moderation and all that. A reduction on the number of flights, or even only on those that cover relatively short distances (there are a ridiculous number of internal flights in the UK), would make a considerable difference to emission levels.
hidden truths, Feb 13 2007
  

       I gotta be honest, hidden, my interest is in the flying car, and buying property high in the mountaints :)
theircompetitor, Feb 13 2007
  

       //Should ambulances be driven by horses?// no - but neither should children be taken to school in giant petrol guzzling 4x4s, nor should folk be forced to opt to fly between Manchester and London for £20 because the equivalent train journey costs £100+ This is madness.   

       Current global consumption of energy and resources are not sustainable. The USA, for example, has just 5% of the world's population but consumes 25% of the planet's energy, and refuses to curb their emissions. This cannot, and should not continue, and there lies the problem, because the USA is selfish, greedy, bullies the rest of the world, and has a president with the intellectual capacity of a jar of pickled eggs, who refuses to even accept that this is a man made problem. This is because he is just a hollowed-out mouthpiece for Exxon/Mobil who put him in office to act as their dancing monkey.   

       see link for greed statistics.
xenzag, Feb 13 2007
  

       //The USA, for example, has just 5% of the world's population but consumes 25% of the planet's energy, and refuses to curb their emissions. This cannot, and should not continue, and there lies the problem, because the USA is selfish, greedy, bullies the rest of the world, and has a president with the intellectual capacity of a jar of pickled eggs, who refuses to even accept that this is a man made problem. This is because he is just a hollowed-out mouthpiece for Exxon/Mobil who put him in office to act as their dancing monkey.// And?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 13 2007
  

       and that is the root of the problem - cut the emissions at source, because once they reach the atmosphere it is too late, except the greatest source is under the control of a moron.
xenzag, Feb 13 2007
  

       I don't think you should bandy words like that lightly. "Control" - indeed!
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 13 2007
  

       breaks into a song - "I see a bad muon arising..."
xenzag, Feb 14 2007
  

       xenzag, without greed, you'd still be sitting by the campfire waiting for someone to through a bone. But, I don't think that this is likely to be a productive conversation
theircompetitor, Feb 14 2007
  

       [theircompetitor] - and with greed, we'll all be back around those campfires.
xenzag, Feb 14 2007
  

       Except there might not be any wood left...
Ling, Feb 14 2007
  

       //Second, the underlying sentiment is that technology is inherently bad. Why, exactly *is* it wrong to fix a technological problem with a technological solution?//   

       It's is not that technology in itself is bad, just that bad technology is. Using another technology to correct the effects of bad one does not solve the problem, at best it simply masks it. The best approach to solving problems created by technology is to improve, refine or replace the problem causing technology.   

       In far as the Virgin Earth Challenge goes, the Earth is no virgin by any measure. The search for a magic bullet is classic misdirection: years go by with no change while the race for a 'cure' goes on. Direct action such as limiting CO2 emissions, taxing them to spur alternative energy production, reforestation, etc., are far more direct actions, all of which would have an immediate impact on the problem.
nuclear hobo, Feb 14 2007
  

       //Using another technology to correct the effects of bad one does not solve the problem, at best it simply masks it.// That sounds inherently good and wise, but there is no substance to it. Why doesn't it solve the problem?   

       The greatest (though not only) objection to burning fossil fuels is that they cause pollution, of which CO2 is the main concern at present. If you can find a good way to remove that pollution, then I don't see why that is not a pretty good answer.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 14 2007
  

       //That sounds inherently good and wise, but there is no substance to it. Why doesn't it solve the problem?//   

       The problems created by the first technology still exist. If the second (repair) technology breaks down, the first problem re-arises (optimistically assuming the second technology has completely eliminated it and that is has no negative effects of its own).   

       Dependence on multiple technologies is far worse than dependence on one. Cascade failure becomes a real possibility (probability?) when multiple technologies depend on each other to function 'properly'.
nuclear hobo, Feb 15 2007
  

       You have possibly the best username ever.   

       I kind of agree with you. When dealing with chaotic systems (+1)+(-1) doesn't always = 0. It's like snorting some cocaine, then taking a hit of smack to calm yourself down. Not good for the long-term viability of the organism. Better to reduce the amount of stimulant entering the system.
BunsenHoneydew, Feb 15 2007
  

       good - then most of us are in agreement that Branson's "idea" is simply about him marketing himself and his airline, because the real solution lies in cutting back the man made CO2 emissions at source - and he's never going to make an award for that suggestion.   

       The whole package comes under the collective term of "greenwash", and if I had a hundred bones I'd drown this sickening "idea" with them.   

       see last link for info on a real environmental hero.
xenzag, Feb 15 2007
  

       //Dependence on multiple technologies is far worse than dependence on one// Well, I see your point. On the other hand, most of the technologies that we are "happy" with are, in fact, multiple technologies. Electricity is dangerous, so you use insulated cables or out-of- reach overhead lines. Hydrogen (as a fuel) is explosive, so we try to find ways to contain or adsorb it and make it safe. Most technologies are like this. Suppose you could build a car which burned hydrocarbon fuel and emitted, say, chalk rather than CO2 (this isn't meant as a serious example) by virtue of some sort of exhaust-side convertor. Would you be OK with that? If not, why not?   

       I'm not dismissing your argument, and sure it would be nice if all the technology we wanted was inherently clean and safe "right out of the box". But it is not going to be, and I think in the long run we will do a lot, lot better to recognise that fact and do our best to make good the shortcomings of what we have.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 15 2007
  

       For most of human existance, practically all people lived in misery. It figures that when that finally changed for any significant fraction of people, the chorus would be for making sure that everyone is miserable again. Your argument was used against the wheel, I'm sure.   

       I spent my entire life making sure that I don't live like the 7Billion people, certainly not about to start worrying about that now.
theircompetitor, Feb 15 2007
  

       //For most of human existance, practically all people lived in misery.//   

       Hmmm. Where is the basis for that?   

       Before Columbus, islanders lived in a virtual paradise where the tropical climate provided an easily harvested bounty upon which to live. Eskimos, like so many other native people, were so finely adapted to their environment that they lived entirely in tune with nature.   

       That these people did not have television or internet or exhaust spewing automobiles or world wide wars does not make them less happy or civilized. A strong argument to the contrary can easily be made ...
nuclear hobo, Feb 16 2007
  

       So, if all these people lived in paradise, how come every civilisation that has been exposed to the best and worst of civilisation has opted for t-shirts, tv's, cars, alcohol, processed food, corrugated iron..... seems that they are voting with their feet, albeit not always very wisely. Could it have something to do with the fact that paradise often involves death through minor illnesses, sharing your intestinal tract and bloodstream with numerous parasites, starving or freezing to death from time to time...   

       Sorry if I sound especially cynical. I just don't believe that our future lies in the past.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 16 2007
  

       .... but that doesn't justify the type of unconstrained greed that is destroying the very world we live on. No one is denying the benefits of technology, but something needs to change, and some restraint and cutting back, especially on the part of those who already consume 25% of everything, isn't an unreasonable request.
xenzag, Feb 16 2007
  

       But it IS an unreasonable request, and greed is a flawed human label put on fundamental biological principles. Our desire to live better is not some Easter Island culture putting up statues to stop the waves -- it is the only thing that has made any substantive difference in the quality of life for any measurable number of beings in the history of the planet.   

       No doubt we should implement intelligent policies. But we should do it without hysteria.
theircompetitor, Feb 16 2007
  

       \\For most of human existance, practically all people lived in misery. It figures that when that finally changed for any significant fraction of people, the chorus would be for making sure that everyone is miserable again\\ I respectfully disagree. What 'the chorus' wants is sustainable living. The ones who are ensuring misery for all in the future are those who insist on using a disproportionate and unsustainable amount of resources.   

       [jutta]'s right, this is an overbaked discussion.
hidden truths, Feb 16 2007
  

       //some restraint and cutting back// I agree that we need to avoid wrecking the place with dirty technology. However, the ultimate aim of technology is, frankly, to give us what we want without unwanted side effects. Restraint is an unsustainable and short-term necessity until we can do better.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 16 2007
  

       If you need some cash SOON and don't want to wait until 2010 to find out if your idea to save the planet has won the Virgin Earth Challenge, check out the PICNIC Green Challenge which is calling for ideas this month. (see Link)
jurist, Aug 08 2007
  

       I have the solution. It's easy and obvious. How do I get the money???
thathatisis, Sep 21 2007
  

       [thathatisis], ask the government and the public taxpayers. You won't have to hand over the idea, or even mention it. Jusk ask. It worked for Bush. Didn't work for me, but I think that the US Military doesn't like Canadians. Or weird people.
Shadow Phoenix, Nov 09 2007
  
      
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