The Baking Soda Carbon Fix

“SkyMines” turn power plant effluvia into an odor-fighting household product. But can you bake with it?

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If the Austin-based company Skyonic has its way, we will one day have tons more baking soda on hand that could fill cakes or fight fridge odors. CEO Joe David Jones, a carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pioneer, discovered a simple process to turn power plant carbon dioxide emissions into the ubiquitous household powder. His “SkyMine” technology combines a plant’s emissions with lye—created on-site with little more than salt, water, electricity, and waste heat from the plant—to produce food-grade baking soda.

The byproducts are hydrogen and chlorine from lye, which plants can sell for a profit along with the baking soda. The process removes 97 percent of the heavy metals that power plants belch, and 99 percent of acid-rain gases, meaning companies can offset costs by bypassing expensive scrubber systems and avoiding carbon emissions taxes.

According to Skyonic’s spokeswoman, Stacy MacDiarmid, Texas energy company Luminant has been operating a pilot SkyMine since July 2007 with “no major stumbling blocks.” If that remains true, it’s likely more plants will follow.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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