Questions for ‘Pollution power? This new device turns carbon dioxide into fuel’ 

an aerial view of a factory beside a highway shows plumes of air pollution drifting from smoke stacks

Cement plants, like the one shown here, are a major source of the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate warming. But some of that pollution could be transformed into a new type of fuel. It’s a salt that can be safely stored for decades or longer.

Witthaya Prasongsin/Moment/Getty Images Plus

To accompany Pollution power? This new device turns carbon dioxide into fuel’  


Before Reading:

  1. How might we turn a solid material containing carbon — such as a piece of wood — into a gas? Which form — gas or solid — do you think has a greater ability to impact our climate negatively? Explain your answer.
  2. Come up with a specific action that you could do today — but that you do not usually do — that would likely have a beneficial impact on the environment. In one sentence, explain the likely impact of this action on our environment. (Even just a tiny impact counts!) Describe one obstacle that might keep the typical person from carrying out this action. Finally, describe one way a person might overcome this obstacle.

During Reading:

  1. Briefly describe the two parts of the new system described in the story for tackling the problem of CO2 pollution. What does this system produce that we use daily?
  2. What is one advantage of using formate instead of hydrogen in fuel cells?
  3. Besides CO2, what chemical was required for the reaction that produced sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3)? What is the household name for NaHCO3?
  4. What type of rock does Ju Li point to as a potential geological source for this required chemical?
  5. Since techniques for removing CO2 operate on a small scale, what does Farzan Kazemifar say is our best currently available option for managing this problem?
  6. Why does Kazemifar say that steel and cement plants might benefit significantly from this new technology? 

After Reading:

  1. Refer back to your answer to Question 1 in Before Reading. After reading this story, would you answer this the same way or differently? Refer to something you learned from reading this story that either (a) supports your original answer or (b) explains changes you would make.
  2. What does Kazemifar mean when discussing a “double-pronged” approach to stopping climate change? Based on your response, explain how a single-pronged approach might differ from a double-pronged approach. Why do you think Kazemifar believes a single-pronged approach is insufficient to address our challenges?