NEW YORK – Scientists at one of the country’s premier research labs have discovered a record-cheap way to capture carbon dioxide as it’s emitted from power plants and factories, including the likes of iron and steel manufacturing facilities.

Globally, industrial processes are responsible for 31 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and electricity generation accounts for 27 percent, according to Bill Gates in his climate book, dwarfing the 16 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions that comes from the transportation sector.

The new technique discovered by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory costs $39 per metric ton and is the cheapest technique for this kind of carbon capture ever reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. For comparison, it costs $57 per metric ton to capture carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant using current state-of-the-art technology, PNNL says.

It would be even cheaper if we could transition to 100% clean energy and didn’t have to remove carbon dioxide at all, but that’s not realistic in today’s global economy, according to Casie Davidson, who manages carbon management work at PNNL.

Even if the electric grid were powered primarily by wind and solar, there would still need to be natural gas plants to maintain grid stability, or to provide backup when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, Davidson said.

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