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Focus: Should it be on Copenhagen or Calera?

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Today's most interesting Climate Change conversation may not be taking place in policy discussions in Copenhagen, but at the Power-Gen International conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. At this two-day event, Calera, a Silicon Valley company that produces "Green Cement," is introducing it to the world's major power producers.

According to the company's founder, Brent Constantz, Calera's Green Cement is created when carbon dioxide emissions are passed through seawater to create a chalky carbonate byproduct. The cement substance is then mixed with aggregate and water to create concrete. This cold production method eliminates the need to heat the cement.

For every ton of cement produced, says Constantz, two-fifths of a ton of carbon dioxide is stored. Because of this, he believes he has solved the global problem of carbon sequestration from coal-fired power plants: store it in concrete.

If true, his business solution would eliminate the need for the U.S. Department of Energy to spend billions of dollars to test the concept of carbon sequestration in the earth. Like the failed nuclear waste storage programs of the past 30 years, this big technology solution may also be doomed. The reason? Why spend taxpayers money on R&D when a business solution may have already solved the problem.

The world needs concrete. It also needs a real-time solution to sequester flue gases from coal-fired power plants.

Calera's test facility in California, supported by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, and discussed in Scientific American and Engineering News-Record, is quickly gaining attention around the world.

The company is discussing projects in Australia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is considering using the material in its Masdar City project.

The high level of interest in Calera technology raises the question: Is business innovation outpacing government decision-making in Copenhagen? Will real solutions be in place long before a legally binding agreement is signed? Should the delegates be paying attention to innovative low and high technology solutions and funding these, today?

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