Making Oil Out of Thin Air.

That’s what they’re doing at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to the New York Times. Zap CO2 and H2O from the atmosphere with electricity and the air itself becomes petroleum:

This plan has a minor hurdle, too; the electricity for driving the chemical processes, according to a white paper describing the overarching concept, would come from nuclear power. The proposal says it’d be worth it to have a payoff of steady, secure streams of methanol and gasoline with no carbon added to the atmosphere (and a price for gasoline at the pump of perhaps $4.60 a gallon — comparable to petroleum-based fuels as oil becomes harder to find).

I suppose a benefit is that it’s removing greenhouse gases, too – by turning them back into fuel.


  1. Is it possible to use solar power to make this even more carbon neutral? I’m intrigued by both reducing C02 emissions and creating a source of fuel. Also, did they say anything about how they made the fuel? Did it just make methane gas, or did it have to be “de-fined”?

  2. 1. I imagine anything that uses electricity could be done with solar power, particularly with the advances from Nanosolar lately.

    2. I’m not any good at chemistry, but all that this release says is that they’re somehow getting carbon out of the CO2 and then making other carbon compounds. I *think* it’s more like a kind of electrolysis (zapping water to get H and O) than anything else, but I really have no idea.

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