12. Fossil fuels fit into a circular economy

12th blog, February 27, 2019

The miracle of nature is that by changing the position of atoms it makes new substances with different properties. Look at how beautiful: CO₂ is carbon dioxide, H₂O is water and O₂ is oxygen. In all three molecules is the O atom and by simply linking it to something else, or multiplying it, you get another valuable substance. What a wonder. People came up with the idea of ​​copying that principle of nature and we now call that a 'circular economy'.

Our government has invested millions to get this principle integrated into our economy, and now has the greatest opportunity ever to give us a good example.

Fossil fuels are made from compressed plant and (single-cell) animal remains. These plants have once - for growth – disconnected CO₂ from the atmosphere by means of photosynthesis. In that process the O₂ (oxygen) was brought back into the atmosphere and the C (carbon) stored in the fruits (10%), the wood (55%) and in the soil as humus (35%). Due to a long period of high pressure and high temperature and due to the action of bacteria under low-oxygen conditions, the C-atom (carbon) of the plant remains is connected to the H-atom (hydrogen), resulting in new molecules such as CH4 (methane), C2H6 (ethane) , C3H6 (propane), et cetera - we now call this fossil fuels. By burning these fossil fuels the C-atom (carbon) that was stored in the plant remains (fossil fuel) is released, binds to the O-atom (oxygen) from the air and in this way CO₂ returns to the atmosphere. By planting new trees we can bring those C-atoms (carbon) back into the plant and the soil.

In a previous blog I described how humanity has degraded 2 billion hectares of land. We now have the - perhaps only and last - chance to make this 2 billion hectares of degraded land fertile again. 35% of the C atoms of the CO₂ that is decomposed by the trees ends up in the soil as humus. A tree needs minerals. It exchanges the C atoms with mycorrhizae - the mycelium threads of mushrooms - for minerals. From the tree, the mycorrhizae receive sugars made from C atoms. This is the circular principle of Mother Nature.

If we fertilize the 2 billion hectares of degraded soil with CO₂ from the atmosphere, then we’ll have the perfect circular model. At the same time, we can solve our food problem and create jobs - for example if we might live with 20 billion people on earth in the near future.

Just like all countries do with nuclear waste, as almost all countries do with household waste, The Netherlands now wants to dump CO₂ under the ground in their Climate Agreement through CCS. Yet CO₂ is one of the most valuable substances we have, with which we can make all degraded land fertile on earth.

If there is ever a time to set a good example with the circular economy, then that moment has now arrived. CO₂ comes from the ground as a fossil fuel to make energy; CO₂ goes into the soil as humus to produce food. Twice making money in the process - and at the same time preventing climate change. That is truly a circular economy.

To find out what benefits the Treesolution has, follow this blog and share it with all your family, friends and acquaintances. In the next blog we discuss the theme 'Overpopulation'.

Pieter Hoff
Green Musketeer

Background information
On 8 October 2018, the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued an emergency call to all countries to reduce their CO₂ emissions by at least 50% by 2030. The Netherlands wants to comply with this by means of a Climate Agreement. Pieter Hoff is of the opinion that the Climate Agreement needs additional policies to achieve 0% net CO₂ emissions by 2030 and that this supporting policy can be implemented much more efficiently, quicker and less costly than the current proposals that are included in the proposed Dutch Climate Agreement.