Finding a solution to clean energy is one man's quest

Andrew West has nothing against clean energy.

"But they don't have the capacity to make a measurable difference in the near term," he says.

West says he has spent the past decade and about $7 million searching for solutions to big problems. One of those is clean energy. He and I began an email conversation after West commented on a colleague's blog post about the study "Beyond Boom & Bust," which said clean energy has reached a crossroad because federal support is expected to plunge. The study was put together by the Breakthrough and World Resources institutes and Brookings Institution.

West's focus is on concepts that can make an immediate difference. "We have been held hostage by oil imports, and the availability of energy is necessary for our continued growth," he says.

More than clean energy

West didn't limit his quest to energy. On his site,, he also outlines concepts to tackle and develop sustainable agriculture, assist education, create affordable urban living and enable more effective and job creating charitable giving.

The quest is a big one and potentially all consuming, especially for one guy. But the Earth has big problems, and we all need to do our part. Rebecca Solnit writes of "chipping away" at the problems facing the current economic quagmire and besieged climate on "We now live in a world that is wilder than a lot of science fiction from my youth," she says before extolling her readers to "find your way into solidarity and people power, and dream big about other futures."

And West dreams big. His solutions are listed as intellectual property and owned by his AWEquities LLC. His Solutioneur Foundation is a nonprofit "that seeks to provide assistance in the research, development and demonstration of ideas, concepts and projects that can have an important social impact and can be shared with the world more rapidly."

Oxy-fuel combustion

As for clean energy, he suggests replacing coal and traditional natural gas-fired power plants with oxy-fuel combustion technology, which he says can produce twice the kilowatts and slash emissions compared to traditional natural gas plants. Oxy-fuel technology also has been tested using coal to reduce pollution by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Oxy-fuel combustion has been extensively studied but a google search shows much of it geared to coal and CO2 sequestration. The process involves burning fuel in a nitrogen-lean and carbon dioxide-rich environment, accomplished by supercharging the combustion process with exhaust gas and oxygen, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.

This results in emissions "of predominantly carbon dioxide and condensable water" rather than traditional nitrogen-rich stack exhaust. Applications also include manufacturing, studies show.

West says he'll release information on a project to demonstrate oxy-fuel combustion on a natural gas power plant in the near future. "Oxy-fuel natural gas can reduce CO2 by 80 percent, eliminate NOx and SOx, without any increase in the price of electricity," he says.

Plug-in hybrids

West says with cleaner energy, the best option for transportation is hybrids that have a range of about 50 miles on batteries (basically a little better than a Chevy Volt). "This would reduce CO2 emissions from automobiles by 50 percent or more," he says.

An analysis by Adam Aston at of conclusions by the EVProject, which has compiled data from 24 million miles of electric vehicle drivers, shows that most EV drivers don't exceed 27.7 miles a day, that Volt owners like to use electric mode rather than gas, that average recharge times are 1.5 hours and that it's too early to judge demand.

West says, "I know there is a lot of anger towards any fossil fuel, including natural gas, but it can be burned cleaner and the results make a significant difference now."

He's one of a growing army of people looking to promote change an idea at a time.