What is “ultramafic rock”? Is it a real solution to CO2 pollution?



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    Ultramafic rock is the result of magma that has cooled and hardened, and is high in magnesium and low in silica.  It is usually a result of the lithosphere, or the earth’s outer crust, coming onto the continental crust so it has been found on both the east and west coasts of the North American continent.
    Scientists at Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for Energy, which is a leading research institution on carbon capture and sequestration, are studying this type of rock as a possible way to aid in sequestration.  In an article on Mineral Carbon Sequestration, they explain: “Mineral carbon dioxide sequestration refers to a technology whereby carbon dioxide is reacted with metal cations in silicate minerals to form solid carbonate minerals. This technology provides permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while eliminating the need for monitoring for CO2 leakage. It is also appealing in the potential for its storage capacity to exceed what would be required for the sequestration of 100% of U.S. CO2 emissions at current levels for centuries.” (http://www.energy.columbia.edu/mineral-carbon)

    Carbon sequestration, if figured out soon, could be our solution to the current high levels of CO2 in the air.  Some consider it dangerous for scientists to call it our ultimate solution because it will allow humans to continue burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases with the attitude that all of the CO2 can be sequestered.  Since our natural resources are limited and there are other emissions going into our atmosphere besides carbon dioxide, we should continue researching and developing clean technology like solar and wind.  The other potential danger with carbon sequestration is the fear that it could leak back out.  This is a major focus of the research being done right now.

    So yes, carbon capture and sequestration is something for us to pay attention and for scientists to continue developing.  And since some people like James Hansen, the head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, think our CO2 levels may already be dangerously high, it could be good technology to reduce those levels.

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