What's the Latest Development?

Since opening an $800,000 mini-refinery in August, Aberdeen-based company Air Fuel Synthesis claims to have produced 15 liters of gasoline using a process involving air and water. Specifically, carbon dioxide is captured from the air, hydrogen is captured from the water, and then the two are synthesized to eventually make gasoline. The company is now looking for funding to build a commercial plant that would produce one ton of gasoline per day by 2015. Chief executive Peter Harrison says that they want to focus first on powering racing cars, and then expand the supply to other gas-powered vehicles.

What's the Big Idea?

If the amounts of gasoline sound small, it's because the amount of electricity needed to produce them is big -- too big for the concept to be feasible, says chemistry professor Lee Cronin. However, he and others think it's worth exploring for a variety of reasons. Scotland is already producing a great deal of electricity via renewable energy sources, and Harrison says that much of it is being wasted. Another expert says that capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fuel "could make driving [a conventional gas-powered car] carbon neutral...the net amount of CO2 in the atmosphere [would remain] constant."

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