Mar 01, 2022
Saved By Zero
In Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert, the Darvasa gas crater has been burning since 1971 when, as one story relates, it’s believed a drilling rig struck oil, ignited and was lost to the gaping inferno. Tourists visit this 230- by 100-foot pit of fire, ringed by a fence, to gawk at the disaster that emits methane in a way no amount of carbon credits can logically balance out.
As fortune would have it, “new” President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov1 plans to fix it; he announced Jan. 8 that officials need to find a way to put out the fire and use the natural resources in the area to benefit his people.2
I’ve oversimplified this example of one gross GHG emitter to prove a point.
We can install energy-saving lightbulbs, air-scrubbing filters, water-use-reducing commodes, and all manner of devices around our homes, businesses, and asphalt facilities to achieve green rating systems status, but such steps won’t save the planet until the big emitters are curtailed. Shall I go ahead and call out a specific communist party in China? Active volcanoes contribute to worries, as well.
Then, there’s this 51-year-old flaming maw in Turkmenistan.
Please don’t assume I would condone inaction on the part of small and near-non-emitters. I fully applaud the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) commitment to net zero carbon emissions for our industry. NAPA announced during the 67th annual meeting in Scottsdale four industry goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 that include:
- Achieving net zero carbon emissions during asphalt production and construction by 2050 (scope 1 emissions);
- Partnering with customers to reduce emissions through pavement quality, durability, longevity, and efficiency standards by 2050 (downstream scope 3 emissions);
- Developing a net zero materials supply chain by 2050 (upstream scope 3 emissions); and
- Transitioning to electricity from renewable energy providers in support of net zero carbon electricity generation by 2050 and reducing electrical intensities (scope 2 emissions).
Continuing to transform and update green thinking throughout any industry is laudable. Defining goals—and how to reach them—for our industry to achieve more in making our pavements more resilient and more carbon neutral will pay dividends for future generations. Going after the low-hanging fruit is always a smart first step.
But we cannot ignore the fact that large emitters are spewing forth clouds of emissions that could negate the small steps remaining to us.
The Road Forward announced at the annual meeting is a worthy mission. I want to see all asphalt industry members succeed in reducing upstream and downstream inputs to such miniscule levels that we’re saved by zero. I also hold out hope that a road forward leads to the front door of a volcanologist who has figured out how to “scrub” carbon and sulfur dioxide from passive and erupting plumes in the Ring of Fire.
Or to a person who knows how to put out the fire at Turkmenistan’s Doorway to Hell.
- This is the spelling of his name according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.