Thanks to a McCloy Fellowship, I’m spending the month in Germany and Holland reporting on CO2 capture and storage for Greenwire. (Not giving too much away to say: It’s about economics and geology.) I’ve been reading John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World for inspiration, as I search for my own rhapsodies on the North German basin.
Unfortunately, much of the color I encounter on the trip won’t make the final cut. A chance encounter with mineralized CO2 while stumbling on Heidelberg University’s Minerals Museum? The jury-rigged, innovative mess of a materials testing lab in Aachen? The suck of Vattenfall’s massive oxygen-purifying system at their pilot capture plant? Maybe these could appear as motes in a long-form narrative, but not a wire series.
So I have to hold on to those moments; anecdotes for a magazine life. I’m grateful for the opportunity. Most of my time is spent behind a desk, and then suddenly, for a few weeks, I’m meeting geologists in their labs and prowling around the largest chemical plant in the world. Or I’m sitting over a coffee with a source — invariably German scientists have been accommodating hosts — who takes the time to draw an off-the-cuff cross section of German geological history (above). And I realize: While the color may not make it in, these are sources I’ll hold on to for my entire career.