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OPINION

Technology (Not More Mandates) to the Rescue

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The ham-fisted government responses to balloon overflights and Ohio train derailments are but the latest examples of why we put ”In God we Trust” on our coinage instead of “In Government.” Using $400,000 missiles to shoot down $400 hobby balloons exemplifies the ineptitude. It is difficult to come up with many examples of genuine government competence. 

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They spend money like it’s not their own. They pass regulations and mandates without concern for the consequences. All done in the name of protecting We the People.

Yet millions of our countrymen including most of our enlightened elites and media moguls agree that stronger, more centralized governance can somehow save the planet from atmospheric calamity. This includes very brilliant people who helped invent the term disruptive technology.

It’s a mystery indeed. 

They lead the calls for massive new subsidies and regulations to stop global warming. We must decarbonize! Whatever the costs. Any suggestion that we might want to consider the costs against the measurable benefits is shouted down. Any scientist who questions the relationship between carbon and climate will be treated like a heretic and must abandon all hope of a research grant. End of discussion.

Whether human activity and CO2  levels are the driving forces behind the gradual warming of our climate is a separate question. With only a few pauses and cooling periods, warming has been occurring since the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, predating human activity.

We will therefore concede that the climate changes. So it has been and so it shall always be. There ends the consensus.

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The role that hydrocarbons play in these mega trends remains a subject of legitimate debate. What is non-debatable is the critical role that energy plays in improving humanity’s standard of living. The recent IER study makes clear that hydrocarbon energy is the bedrock upon which our modern way of life sits and it will be so for the immediate future. Pretending it isn’t so and passing green mandates won’t change that. Americans won’t passively accept any government-imposed lowering of their standard of living. Neither will the Chinese for that matter.

Too many politicos confuse saying something with doing something. Making grand proclamations at ski resorts in Switzerland or even passing legislation demanding that we be carbon free by 2040 is easy. Without some dramatic technological developments it will be impossible.

The “you didn’t build that” crowd hates to admit it, but the solutions to our energy and environmental problems won’t  be created by the government. Solutions will be found by free people working in a free market. It will be researchers and entrepreneurs working in small labs.

One such entrepreneur/scientist is Sam Weaver. Dr. Sam has an impressive list of inventions. From the process to make carbon brakes used on most Boeing aircraft to the ceramic press that turns out the world’s thinnest aluminum cans for a brewery in Golden Colorado, you see Sam’s handiwork all around.

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What he and his Proton Power team have been working on for the last number of years may just be the energy game-changer we need. In a lab just west of Knoxville, Dr. Weaver and his team began figuring out how to efficiently separate hydrogen from plant-based (biomass) material. They accomplished that and Wampler’s Farm Sausage plant nearby has been running on clean-burning hydrogen rich syngas for several years. In effect, they remove the carbon before burning the hydrogen.

That’s good, but their story gets better. Almost by accident, they discovered that the black powder carbon byproduct is rich in what they now call PPI Graphene. It has many of the same chemical properties of pure graphene.  Graphene represents the holy grail of material scientists. It sells for as much as $2500 per gram. The Weaver team can upgrade this renewable and sustainable version from the carbon the biomass plants removed from the air for just fifty cents per gram.

Now it becomes truly disruptive!

Pure, layered graphene is both amazing and very expensive. Light as a feather while unbelievably strong. It has incredible electrical properties as well. The last few years the Weaver team has focused on producing batteries using their graphene. Imagine a battery that charges much faster, holds that charge longer, is impervious to cold and contains no lithium or rare earth materials. Oh, and it lasts longer; 800,000 cycles compared to 1,000 cycles in today’s batteries.

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All of a sudden everything from electric cars to large scale storage of “green” power for the grid begin to actually make sense. This is being accomplished without mandates, the heavy hand or even much help from the government. 

Imagine that.

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