• Peer-Reviewed
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences · 2008

Carbon neutral hydrocarbons

Frank S. Zeman and David W. Keith

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector may be the most difficult aspect of climate change mitigation. We suggest that carbon neutral hydrocarbons (CNHCs) offer an alternative pathway for deep emission cuts that complement the use of decarbonized energy carriers. Such fuels are synthesized from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂) and carbon neutral hydrogen. The result is a liquid fuel compatible with the existing transportation infrastructure and therefore capable of a gradual deployment with minimum supply disruption. Capturing the atmospheric CO₂ can be accomplished using biomass or industrial methods referred to as air capture. The viability of biomass fuels is strongly dependent on the environmental impacts of biomass production. Strong constraints on land use may favour the use of air capture. We conclude that CNHCs may be a viable alternative to hydrogen or conventional biofuels and warrant a comparable level of research effort and support.

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