Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Greetings, Wikipedians and Gristiods

This afternoon, I noticed a threefold increase in my blog traffic, which seemed unusual for a page that I hadn’t updated in a week and a half. Obviously, people going back to work and needing to waste their boss’s money was an obvious explanation, but a bit of research showed that something else was afoot.

It appears that this humble blog is now a source for Wikipedia. Specifically, my post on carbon sequestration in mine tailings has been linked from the Wikipedia mine tailings page.

On the one hand, this is cool- look at all the traffic! On the other hand, the idea that they use a blog description of a scientific talk written by a guy in the audience is a bit worrying. Is my blog really the clearest and most accessible writing on the subject?

Surely it would be better research to use the website of the research group run by the guy who gave the talk, or better yet, read and cite one of his students’ peer-reviewed scientific papers (both of which were linked in the original blog post).

Of course, exposure has its downsides. As Grist readers are doubtless aware, certain comments there and other places have taken tailing sequestration as the holy grail of anthropogenic CO2 problems. Obviously I love the traffic, but it seems that my new link-groupie missed the bit where I wrote

We don’t currently mine enough nickel, chromite, or asbestos for this to be a stand-alone solution for all emissions...

Also, the 0.1 Gt/yr is a theoretical maximum. One of the interesting complications that was presented in the talk, and which I neglected to mention in my drive to simplify, is that not all mines with serpentine tailings seem to be carbonating. At least some of there research seems to be into looking at why the asbestos mines are carbonating while the nickel mines are not. As a result, current carbonation rates are orders of magnitude below the theoretical maximum.

Tailings sequestration is a potential tool towards addressing the issue of carbon dioxide pollution. But like many novel approaches, it has a way to go before this scientific curiosity becomes a widespread technology.

Of course, one of the great things about a free market economy is that a person who passionately believes that a particular phenomenon is potentially lucrative can do more about it than just talk. He can develop the technology, spruik it to investors, raise cash through an IPO, and let his profits do the talking. All that's required is scientific know-how, a head for business, and a marketplace that places a price on carbon.

No comments: