What do we do with the CO2

Dwight Owen Schweitzer  4/21/12

On the 7th of June 1942 the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown was sunk shortly after the battle of Midway. What is remarkable is not the manner of her sinking but that she did not sink earlier as a result of a Japanese aerial attack when a bomb went through her flight deck and exploded below in the compartment where thousands of gallons of highly flammable airplane fuel were being stored and being used to refuel the planes that were there. The resultant explosion would have sunk a similar Japanese aircraft carrier but the fire on the Yorktown was put out in a matter of minutes saving the ship and her crew. The reason for this was remarkably simple. The United States, Navy when building that ship in 1937 put in what to that time, was a revolutionary fire suppression system. It consisted of filling the hold with CO2, an inert gas that is heavier than air and does not support combustion.

We know that CO2 has two distinct and beneficial properties; it enables plants to undergo photosynthesis and in the process use CO2 to produce Oxygen and it puts out fires in enclosed areas where it can displace the oxygen that is the fuel of virtually all but chemical fires. The significance of this is also two fold. Imagine if we replaced all of the water held in storage in all of the water mains and sprinkler systems under pressure in the same way we pipe in natural gas to homes and buildings throughout the country.

There has been much speculation and some research on what is called CO2 sequestration; the liquefying of CO2 emissions and storing the resultant liquid in underground caverns and this approach might have some merit however I see no economic benefit accruing from it. In the meantime we have a fire suppression system throughout the country that not only contains millions of gallons of water held in it but is a poor choice to put out most fires due to the resultant time it takes and the water damage that ensues.

What I am suggesting is that we use the thousands of miles of water pipe presently held hostage to a possible fire and systematically replace it with liquefied carbon dioxide. The downside risk is that were it to leak in an enclosed building undetected, people would die of carbon dioxide poisoning; a risk easily prevented by even present ‘smoke detectors’ and the gas could be impregnated with a die or a noxious odor much as gasoline and home heating natural gas is today. While I do not have the exact figures of the amount of liquefied CO2 that could be stored in the present water based system the simple truth is that it is a far better and infinitely less environmentally damaging method of putting out fires than the water sprinklers we have today.

The second benefit of CO2 should also be utilized in creating automated farming systems that enable our CO2 emissions to be captured and piped into the same grid and made available to nurture agriculture which in turn would shorten growing seasons and add much needed oxygen to an atmosphere that is using more at a time when the rainforests that are the chief source of converting atmospheric CO2 into Oxygen are being decimated in vast portions of the world. We do not know the degree that CO2 emissions would then be reduced from going into the atmosphere but it is safe to suggest that the amounts would be not only meaningful but the catastrophe of rising ocean levels at alarming rates and the consequences to virtually every country in the world which is less than 200 feet above sea level. That is the amount the oceans of the world will rise at present rates in less than two centuries as the polar ice caps melt progressively faster and at a time when the population of the world will be growing while the land mass to support them will be shrinking.