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Why do nations including the U.S. seem hell bent on spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to develop commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS) while spending very little on developing technology for converting CO2 into a useful product?

Wake up, Mr. Obama. You just hit the jackpot. Your own Sandia National Laboratories just made a breakthrough that has the potential to convert CO2 into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel on a commercial scale and at a reasonable price.

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As reported in MIT’s Technology Review, Sandia “successfully demonstrated a prototype machine that uses the sun’s energy to convert water and CO2 into the molecular building blocks that make up transportation fuels.”

“In the short term we see this as an alternative to sequestration,” a Sandia chemicals engineer was quoted as saying.

Bingo!

Someone please get in touch with Tom Friedman and Glenn Beck. Sandia may not just have made a technological breakthrough. It may also have made a political breakthrough.

There’s something here for liberal Democrats to love – namely: using the sun to save the planet from a huge source of global warming. And there’s something for conservative Republicans to love – namely, the ability of big carbon-generating industries such as oil and gas, electricity and heavy industrials to avoid being taxed on their carbon output. Sandia’s breakthrough might even make it unnecessary to draft a punitive climate change agreement.

Instead, carbon generators could wind up making a lot of money by selling their CO2 or, in the case of Big Oil, using it as a cheaper alternative to crude. It isn’t far fetched to think that CO2 could become the next great global commodities market.

Investors should start thinking counter-intuitively. The very companies that are going to get bad publicity at Copenhagen could turn out to be the big winners.

Big long-term winners could include Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE:KMP), which has interests in pipelines that transport CO2, oil giants like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), and big coal-using utilities like American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).

Disclosure: No positions

Source: Will Carbon Dioxide Drive the Next Great Commodities Boom?