What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the sustainability world?
One simple, but oft undervalued idea would be individuals taking responsibility for their personal carbon footprint. In my case, I bike to work as much as possible, drive a Prius when I don't bike, and I have been a vegan for 25 years. People think that one person cannot make a difference, but it really is a ripple effect; any individual effort can add up to a create a significant global impact.
What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?
Gas-to-liquids technologies get a fairly poor shake in the media today, especially in our hyper-politicized country, so people do not realize that it is actually possible to make drop-in transportation fuels without using crude oil. In fact, it possible to make these fuels more affordably and more "greenly" than we make them today. One day in the not too distant future we will run out of inexpensive crude, and it will be these gas-to-liquids technologies that will allow us to continue to afford filling up our gas tanks.
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the sustainability world?
Putting a price on carbon. It is the cheapest, fairest way to cut pollution and build a clean energy economy. Just recently, Australia put a price on carbon, which will make firms more energy efficient and stimulate growth in natural gas and renewable energy technologies. It is a blanket price that will treat every firm and industry equally, while promoting sustainable policies that will be of great benefit to the environment in the long run.
What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
Carbon capture and sequestration. It is a bad idea and won't work. It is an unproven, energy-intensive process and has the potential to make the problem worse. What we need is a process to recycle the CO2 into valuable products such as transportation fuels.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane make up more than 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from municipal landfills. For example, these gases can be converted into gasoline and diesel for use in municipal fleets of cars and trucks. The part of converting landfill gases into liquid, portable transportation fuels is fascinating, a great opportunity, but down the road a bit.
Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame for your field?
Professor Franz Fischer and Dr. Hans Tropsch were German inventors of the "Fischer-Tropsch" process to create liquid hydrocarbons from carbon monoxide gas and hydrogen using metal catalysts. They are the godfathers of the gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology, enabling companies and technologies like ours to refine the process and make it greener and more efficient.