Green Matter: Does CO2 deserve a break?

As a greenhouse gas, CO2 gets an unenviable amount of bad press. At the second conference on CO2 in Essen, Germany this week, however, CO2 received the full VIP treatment. Far from viewing it as a polluting nuisance, the folks at this conference saw CO2 as a valuable feedstock-a virtually unlimited resource offering opportunities for new ways to produce chemicals and polymers, as well as enabling the introduction of large-scale sustainable energy.

"Innovation is about change", said Gernot Klotz, of Cefic, talking about his vision of the CO2 economy from the point of view of the chemical industry. "Not about depending on the existing structure."

And change is precisely what the CO2 economy proposes. All commodity chemicals today are manufactured from building blocks based on oil and natural gas. "Today, the entire economy is based on finite resources, which, at some point, will run out," said Michael North, of the University of York. "We'll have no choice at that point." But CO2 offers us a choice. As Klotz pointed out: "It's always there, and there's a lot of it. So we should use it!"...

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