Carbon dioxide is actually used for a bunch of things today. The global market for bulk CO2 is about 230 million tons a year, which sounds like a lot, except that it’s vastly smaller than the excess CO2 we emit annually and even smaller than the excess in the atmosphere.
About 130 million tons is used in fertilizer. Another 70-80 million tons is used in enhanced oil recovery per IEA.
The biggest providers of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery are natural gas wells that have too high a concentration of CO2, so they strip it off and use it in enhanced oil recovery.
That only leaves a 150-160 million ton per year market for CO2. As a commodity it is cheap, plentiful, and trivial to manufacture.
Behavioral economics talks about induced demand, where making something cheaper and more available creates a surge in use of that thing.
That’s the basis of Jevons Paradox, where increasing efficiency doesn’t reduce usage, but actually leaves consumption the same because people just use more.
But it doesn’t apply here. CO2 is already dirt cheap and plentiful.
Let’s suppose that market for actually beneficial CO2 usage increases by 50%. That’s still only 240 million tons a year.
Imagine that a bunch of governments give away money to do something with excess CO2, and that doubles CO2 global annual usage.
We’re still around 300 million tons a year, when the scale of the annual emissions problem is 40 billion tons a year, several orders of magnitude higher.
Oil and gas sector are betting big on carbon capture, sequestration, and are trying to cut their carbon emissions. Too bad the emissions are more than the current global commodity market for CO2 today and we feel, in a sensible future world, enhanced oil recovery will go away 😉
Reference- Clean Technica, IEA, E&E News, Leader-Post, Reuters