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Never too old to change the world

Greenspring resident continues groundbreaking work on climate change

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June 30th, 2016
Coinventors Charlie Bliss (right), who lives at Greenspring, the Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., and Charley Moseley.

Coinventors Charlie Bliss (right), who lives at Greenspring, the Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., and Charley Moseley received their first U.S. patent together for their creative ideas on combating global warming and climate change.

Charlie Bliss, a community member at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., has been protecting the environment longer than most of us have been alive. At 98, he has spent the last 76 years actively working as a progressive chemical engineer specializing in energy and economic development. 

Recently, in response to data released by NASA and NOAA confirming that 2015 marked the hottest year since record keeping began in the late 1800s, Charlie and his colleague Charley Moseley have begun focusing their attention on the effects of climate change and global warming.

“It is an incontrovertible fact that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in increasing the averaged temperature of the atmosphere,” says Bliss. “It is an important issue to me as I have witnessed, firsthand, the social aspects of the problem from my experiences in a number of developing countries, including Nigeria, Colombia, the Philippines, and Pakistan.”

The men’s work is of great importance. NASA and NOAA also confirmed that the 2015 phenomenon was not an outlier. In fact, 15 of the 16 hottest years in history have been recorded since the turn of the century. And NASA Administrator Charles Bolden proclaimed, “climate change is the challenge of our generation.”  

As a result of their hard work and determination, the two men recently received a U.S. Patent (US 9,187,724 B1), citing a method for utilizing captured carbon dioxide through the cultivation of microalgae, thus reducing harmful emissions to the atmosphere.  

Long-term partnership

Bliss and Moseley first met while working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Pakistan in 1981. Moseley was the head of USAID/Pakistan’s Office of Energy and Environment, and Bliss was an officer in the central Office of Energy where he focused on the USAID technical and economic assistance program to Pakistan.  

During this time, the two men participated in a comprehensive feasibility study aimed at establishing the first modern coal mining and power generation installation in Pakistan while also meeting their international standards for environmental protection. 

“At the time, and even now, Pakistan was experiencing serious shortages of electricity,” says Bliss. “Our work was aimed at helping with this important problem.”

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, both Bliss and Moseley continued to work together on USAID interests in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.

“After we both retired, we continued to work together on efforts to introduce a smokeless coal briquette that would take pressure away from the use of wood for residential cooking and heating,” says Bliss. “And in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan designing renewable biodiesel projects.”

Current aspirations

Recently, while working as an independent consultant, Bliss focused his attention on the declining role of coal-based power generation in the United States. These activities led to the application for a U.S. Patent.

The men cite that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current plan to slow global warming tends toward closing power plants and eliminating the use of coal. They suggest a more constructive approach that includes cleaning up the burning of coal by finding uses for carbon dioxide.

“NOAA confirms that when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, the temperature also goes up,” says Bliss. “As a result, there are numerous efforts to capture the carbon dioxide from gaseous emissions from fossil-energy electricity generation. The problem is what to do with the carbon dioxide after it has been captured. Current efforts aim at injecting it into underground geological formations for permanent storage. The cost of doing this is very high and includes the creation of a large pipeline network to access these underground storage projects. This cost will be absorbed by electricity customers.”  

Bliss and Moseley’s new patent suggests that a better option is to produce a cost-effective way to capture the carbon dioxide and to find uses that yield revenue. They’ve created a method for cultivating and processing microalgae, which includes directing a continuous supply of carbon dioxide into an enclosed container, known as a photobioreactor, containing microalgae.  

Photosynthetic chemical reactions using renewable solar energy take place in the photobioreactor, producing both an algae biomass and a gaseous mixture, which can then be used in a variety of ways such as for cattle feed and creating a renewable diesel fuel.  

Next steps

According to Bliss, as their next step the men will create a a physical demonstration that proves their method as a viable process and a valuable substitution for current methodology.  

Of all the important work he’s done over his long career, Bliss is most proud of these current activities aimed at mitigating the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In April, he was honored for his achievements at Greenspring’s annual Earth Day celebration.

“Maybe my longevity is due to the enduring ability to do what I love,” he says. “I like retirement so much, I do it often.”

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