Barriers to Decarbonizing Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels currently provide 81 percent of global primary energy. While wind and solar have grown rapidly in recent years, they together account for just 1 percent of the global energy supply. Even if they grow rapidly, the sheer scale of the energy system means that even the most rapid transition would take many decades. In such a scenario decarbonization of fossil fuels seems imperative to have access to clean and affordable energy.

What are the numerous economic and societal barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels.

Hi @b0bbybaldi, @Jesse_Nyokabi and @carlbozzuto - Would love to hear your thoughts on this discussion.

1 Like

@Shashi you are completely right. I would say there is no incentive to decarbonise Fossil Fuels at the moment for which companies don’t do it and the market does not switch. Perhaps with a Carbon Tax that would correct for these externalities that problem could be solved, but without an economic incentive, it seems unlikely to happen.

1 Like

Hi @akb, @adventureashr, @CO2Cap_SysEng - Would love to hear your viewpoints on the barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels.

Hi @Shashi
That is indeed a significant challenge. In my initial submission to HeroX/XPRIZE I recognised that the pace of developments and implementation would be a significant barrier to addressing climate change in time. So I proposed a prize within the energy challenge that would be awarded for the following achievements:

  • Developing and installing (electric) energy infrastructure at one tenth (or less) of the price of conventional approaches

  • Developing and installing (electric) energy infrastructure ten times faster (or more) than conventional approaches.

For example, high levels of innovative automation might address both of these aspects. Relying on traditional labour is probably going to cost too much and be too slow.

(But in addition to all the new energy infrastructure we’ll need a fast, affordable, roll out of electrical end user products and applications - for those users that currently do not have electrical versions. This links to the goal of full electrification; but some applications might be able to use “green” fuel in the intermediate phase.)

3 Likes

Hi @KeithDPatch, @agval and @SonyaD - Please share your thoughts on the social and economic barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels.

Shashi, Rapid decarbonization will not occur until the cost and convenience of doing are readily available to all. As Elon Musk said, the cure cannot be worse than the disease. Right now, fossil fuels are cheaper and more convenient than the alternatives. Overcoming that is part of the $100 million Carbon Removal XPRIZE. Current technologies are not really sufficient. What is needed is something that can work every day without a lot of fuss and bother on the part of the average citizen. One wild idea is to use something like the solid CO2 absorbents that are deployed on the space station. Create a cartridge that fits in the front of an automobile, about where the radiator is. Then by driving around, CO2 will be removed from the atmosphere. When the cartridge is used up, it is taken out and replaced with a refurbished one. The spent cartridge is collected and sent to a regeneration facility. The refurbished cartridge is recycled. The CO2 that is driven off is sent to a permanent, underground storage site. The average person does little and has essentially no cost, but in driving around, collects CO2 from the atmosphere. The cost has to be borne in some way. That could be highway taxes or a carbon tax, but that is relatively convenient for the average person. Now I don’t know if that idea will really work or not. The point is that some 200 - 250 million cars on the road could be collecting CO2 from the atmosphere with little or no effort on the part of the average person. A way to finance the cost will be needed and a permanent storage facility for underground CO2 storage will also be needed. There are many ways that could come about. Exxon is looking at sending captured CO2 out to the Gulf of Mexico and sequestering it under the ocean floor. In any event, it is those types of ideas and concepts that need to be developed. Otherwise, people will continue to do what is cheaper and more convenient for them.

3 Likes

Thanks @carlbozzuto for sharing your thoughts on the problem and potential solutions.

1 Like

Hi @AlexIp and @Brad - We would love to know your thoughts on the social and economic barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels.

If you like this topic and you think it’s a problem we should push forward in the process and develop breakthroughs for in the next stage, please up-vote for it. You can find the
“Vote” button to the left of the title at the top of the page.

1 Like

From an economic standpoint, I think a big challenge is the scale. In the top level example, 81% of energy supply is fossil-based. So you’d have a lot of fossil-energy to decarbonize, and that will be expensive. Then the question becomes whether that money is better spent bringing up renewable energy sources instead. I can imagine the answer would be different depending on the sector, and you could focus on the sectors that would have a harder time transitioning from fossil fuels (eg heavy industry, aviation).

From a social standpoint, I’m not sure there’s a lot of social license to decarbonize fossil fuels rather than transition away from it.

3 Likes

Love the comments here and especially @AlexIp’s last point really makes me wonder whether it is more critical/time-sensitive to focus on decarbonizing fossil fuels, or double down on efforts to transition the infrastructure to 100% renewable energy as fast as possible. Curious to hear other experts as well weigh in where they think the priorities lie.

That said, the most recently designed prize concept sponsored by IEEE (which I had the pleasure of being involved in) aims to approach exactly those kinds of hard-to-decarbonize sectors referenced, like heavy industry, shipping, etc. that really need alternatives for burning fuels. We’re crossing fingers it will be able to get funded and launched soon!

1 Like

Hi @salmanzafar and @RDuffy - Given your vast experience in the energy field, would love to hear your take on barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels.

Hi @jasonsalfi and @ejnovek - Curious to know your thoughts on the barriers to rapid decarbonization of fossil fuels and the comments so far on this discussion.

If you like this topic and you think it’s a problem we should push forward in the process and develop breakthroughs for in the next stage, please up-vote for it. You can find the
“Vote” button to the left of the title at the top of the page.

Sashi
I dont see a vote button. Is there another page?

Hi @jasonsalfi,
The vote button is below the title of the discussion towards the left.