That would be what I would normally advise. But, we are not in normal times. Regardless of why it’s happening or what’s causing it to happen, the amounts of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are dramatically rising, and have not been at the level they are today (415 ppm atop the Maui observatory on March 2019), for over 800,000 years (yes, I’m that old and can remember those days). And, if the experts are right, there is very little time left to tackle this existential threat – that extremely limited rollout-time is measured in years at best, and is certainly not measured in decades.
So, when I was recently shown an albeit fledgling coatings technology with the potential to mitigate a large portion of the excess carbon dioxide being added annually to our atmosphere, I felt compelled to force myself out of my historically conservative and prudent comfort zone and into giving advice to my readers that breaks all my historic molds. When I realized that despite the critically short time left to mitigate the worst outcomes of this staggering excess of carbon dioxide, it is, in fact, specific types of coatings that have the almost entirely unique characteristic to be thinly applied over vast amounts of surface area and it is only that capacity of coatings that stands a chance of quickly defeating the huge task in front of us.
So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna stick my professional neck way, way out.
I have tried to tackle the job of projecting a business approach to such a huge venture. From the first, I could tell it was not a profits-and-losses calculus like I am used to conducting. For one thing, these new coatings produce products themselves – they literally capture and amass carbon dioxide – part of which is the very raw ingredients from which they themselves are made. They are in a very real sense the world’s first self-replicating paint. They don’t only protect and beautify the underlying surfaces, they make stuff that people will buy, including more binder raw materials from which they themselves are comprised.
When I began to dig deeper into the numbers and the logistics, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that these coatings had the potential not only to turn a profit upon their sale to the ultimate applicator/consumer as a classical coating, but to have potential beyond that to numerous markets for the products that they could themselves manufacture. These were intangible things like carbon offsets, but also tangible goods like carbohydrates, cellulose and high-end cosmetics and coating binders, fuel, animal feed, fertilizer...at this writing we are just now uncovering the multitude of potential byproducts and markets which lie before
In this first Business Corner column devoted to the economics of carbon capture coatings applied over massively iterated vertical surfaces, I will describe my analytical approach, to be followed in a second such column by real dollar and cents analyses. This is my initial contribution to the industrial consortium we must form if we, as an industry, are going to kick carbon dioxide’s behind.
The approach I will take is to first do a standard supply-chain analysis similar to many I have discussed with you in the past. I will necessarily have to throw in a wrinkle or two due to the fact that these coatings once fixed to surfaces amenable to sustaining the living organisms inside the film, in fact, begin making bi-products themselves thereby adding to the value chain.
In the end, however, I hope to take my conclusions and compare them to approaches being taken by other technologies to achieve similar drawdowns of greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. In particular, I will try to do an apples-to-apples comparison of my analyses with those used to rank carbon-removing technologies already being ranked by Project Drawdown, as recently summarized in the New York Times bestseller “Drawdown” edited by Dr. Paul Hawken.
The approach used in the analysis by Project Drawdown features a ranking of solutions according to their emission-reduction potential.
The analysis concludes how many gigatons of greenhouse gases are avoided or removed from the atmosphere, as well as the total incremental cost to implement the solution, and the net cost or – in most cases – savings. Because of the fact that 2050 has been estimated the year that we will cross over the 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures if we don’t reduce our carbon output leading to potentially catastrophic weather, loss of species, drought and global food shortages, the solutions are evaluated for their potential to impact that rise from over the next 30 years. Thus, the degree to which a given solution has a bearing on greenhouse gases is translated into gigatons of carbon dioxide removed between the years of 2020 and 2050. And what is a gigaton? To appreciate its magnitude, imagine 400,000 Olympic-sized pools. That is about a million metric tons of water, or one gigaton. Now multiply that by 36, yielding 14,400,000 pools. Thirty-six gigatons are the amount of carbon dioxide that was emitted in 2016.
Taking all this into consideration and by comparing Carbon Capture Coatings technology on the same basis as Drawdown to determine how it stacks up economically and feasibly to other Drawdown solutions, I hope to point to a near-term profitability path for the consortium partners. If you would like to discuss this with me, please contact me, Phil Phillips, at www.chemarkconsulting.net.