The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The key milestone

happened around

the middle of the

century when highly

efficient absorption

technologies were

developed that could

capture carbon dioxide

directly from the air.

25. Replacing them with

technology-neutral policies like

a carbon tax, which still gave

biofuels an advantage over

fossil fuels.


stations—for instance from dry organic waste, but also from fossil fuels. Gasification or

pyrolysis were used, along with synthesis technologies and solar power. Of course, the

evolution of this technology system began gradually, encouraged by policy incentives and

funded by ‘green investments’.

The key milestone happened around the middle of the century when highly efficient

absorption technologies were developed that could capture carbon dioxide directly from the

air. The first successful attempt to capture C0 from the air was performed in 2008 by Klaus


Lackner (Lackner 2010). But it wasn’t until much later that the potential for carbon capture

and reuse was realised.

Efforts toward ‘Industrial photosynthesis’ intensified in the latter half of the 21st century and

reached commercial scale around 2100. Industrial photosynthesis is the use of captured

carbon dioxide and solar energy to produce energy rich compounds for materials and fuels.

It has made incredible gains in climate change mitigation and eased conflicts over land use

and land use change. While using industrial processes to produce food will probably never

be the case—and hopefully not—it could be used to synthesise the materials of the future.

7.4 | The balanced bioeconomy

It was the cultivation of biomass that originally allowed hunter-gatherer societies to settle

and develop into cities. Their industrial metabolism was largely based on biotic resources—

crops for food and wood for shelter (especially in Europe)—or local resources like stone and

clay. With the technological advances in the latter half of the 20th Century, it was thought

by some that a return to a largely bio-based economy was one way to reduce fossil fuel

dependence and mitigate climate change. However, it was quickly realized that the limited

systems perspective of agrofuels was too narrow to take in greater impacts and that a

growing population of more than 6 billion needed to use its agricultural land to produce

food. In the EU leaders realised that biofuels meant substituting one supply dependency

(fossil fuels) with another (biomass), and that by stimulating production and consumption

of liquid biofuels, demand would grow in such a way that, regardless of how efficient these

processes became, it could only be met by cropland expansion—leading to an unforgivable

and irreversible loss of biodiversity.

In the 2nd decade international conventions were formed that first abolished all biofuel

quotas25 and then agreed to halt all cropland expansion beyond 2020 (van Vuuren and

Faber 2009). Forced to use land resources more effectively, massive efficiency gains across

the food chain—from the field to the fork—were made and better practices to maintain soil

fertility of existing cropland were implemented by farmers throughout the world (aided by

new assistance programmes).

In the 2010s, hype for bio-based products started to emerge, as customers were keen to buy

‘green’ products and governments were happy to encourage this trend. However, lessons from

the biofuel hype had been learned and biomaterials were put through systems-wide scrutiny.

It was determined that organic wastes made an excellent feedstock for rematerialization and

that to some extent, fast growing, non-food plants rich in lignocelluloses (switchgrass, poplar,

ect.) could be used in so-called cascades. This meant as a material first, and then re-used,

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines