Why Elon Musk is giving $100M to capture carbon
8:47

Why Elon Musk is giving $100M to capture carbon

Science
In late January, Elon Musk announced on Twitter, that he will donate $100 million towards a prize for best carbon capture technology. The announcement immediately brought attention to a concept that it's not new, but remains relatively unknown. And now we're not talking about trees, but about a process to capture carbon emissions and start to reuse them, which could help tackle climate change. What exactly does this mean? Let's take a look. This point behind me would capture 1 million tonnes of co2 from the atmosphere every year. So that's the equivalent of about 14 million trees.>> This is the fore man, and he's the CEO of carbon engineering, which is a Canadian company, that has been working on carbon removal, for the past 10 years. And is now planning, its first commercial facility in Texas. Carbon dioxide is one of the primary greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming. It's not the only one. We have methane as well, for example, and it is a huge problem. But co2 is the largest single one. And that's why reducing its levels in the atmosphere is so important. And you may notice that we're talking about a few different things here. Elon Musk first reference to this price in a tweet mentioned carbon capture. A couple of weeks later, the official announcement arrived, saying that the organisation, XPrize would be managing the price, $100 million for a gigaton scale carbon removal challenge. Now these concepts are sometimes used interchangeably, but they're not the same. carbon capture and storage refers to a process. What are the carbon dioxide that is released when burning fossil fuels can capture and store this prevents carbon from entering the atmosphere. But it doesn't reduce the co2 levels already present in the air. In the case of carbon removal, the co2 typically comes from the atmosphere in what is called direct air capture. No matter where the carbon is coming from it can be recycled and used to make products such as fuel or carbon fiber. Or even hand sanitizer. This is called Carbon Capture and Use. These distinctions are important. Removing carbon that is already in the air is not the same as preventing it from entering the atmosphere, storing carbon for a long period of time. It's not the same as making fewer with it. The company carbon engineering was founded in 2009 By Harvard professor David Gates. Besides the carbon removal, they have also developed a technology to produce liquid fuels from CO2 captured from the air. The plan that Steve Orman showed will come from a partnership with 1PointFive, which has the energy company Occidental behind it. And you can say that carbon capture and carbon removal are having a moment and not just because of Elon Musk. Bill Gates, for example, who has his new book out how to avoid a climate disaster has been very vocal in his support. Even Jennifer Granholm President Biden speak for Secretary of Energy. Mention these technologies in her confirmation hearing. And these were celebrated in the carbon capturing carbon removal communities.>> We're really excited that the new administration has put climate front and center in this effort. They've also called out the need for things like carbon removal and negative emissions technologies, which is really exciting. The Department of Energy has had a lot of success in bringing down the cost of different kinds of clean energy technologies. Solar is a really good example. They played an enormous role in driving down the cost of solar panels. Carbon180 is a nonprofit based in DC and a spin off of UC Berkeley Research Centre. It works with scientists, businesses and policymakers to influence policy in support of carbon removal. We can think about the places where director capture might be deployed and how those could create Really high paying union jobs or how those can help redress environmental and justices got him captured at this source has a longer history, but direct carbon removal from the air is at a much earlier stage. [MUSIC] In 2017, a European company, Planworks, opened the first commercial carbon removal plant. But there are still very few companies working in the field, and the market is very small. The carbon removal Xprize, funded by Elon Musk, will run for four years, and teams will have to come with a working prototype Capable of removing at least one tone and besides that, they'll have to demonstrate that their solution can scale to the gigaton level. That is 1 billion metric tons, over 2 trillion pounds. For reference climeworks neoplan opening this year, is expected to remove 4000 tonnes of co2 per year. Here in the US carbon engineering plant won't be operational until 2024. Express is an organization that sets up prices to incentivize innovation. It has worked on topics like ocean exploration, space, technology and AI And it's not the first time that it has focused on carbon. This earlier competition is still running, but it seeks to develop technologies that can convert CO2 emissions into useable products. Now, not everybody thinks this is a good idea, the cost is high The technologies are challenging to implement in capturing or removing carbon itself needs energy, which can be renewable or not. Critics say that the same investments would be better spent implementing renewables Mark Jacobson is an engineering professor at Stanford University. In 2019, he published a study that suggested that these technologies could cause more harm than good according to his research Cases he started reduced only a small fraction of carbon emissions, while at the same time increasing other air pollution. I don't think of it as being critical. I just think I'm being factual about the reality of carbon capture and direct air capture. You know, they can have all the lobbyists in the world to push their technology. But they're just, you know, basically lying to the public about the benefits of it. It's like trying to, you know, clean up the mess after the fact why not just stop the mess, don't have the mess in the first place. And we can do that by transitioning to clean, renewable energy. It's technically possible it's economically possible will reduce costs save consumers money and create jobs, reduce air pollution deaths significantly. [MUSIC] Last year and not achieved decided to shut down its Petra Nova carbon capture project It capture CO2 from a coal fired power plant to produce oil and require a new natural gas power plant for its own power. Proponents of these technologies either carbon capture carbon removal or both Say that renewables won't be enough. And that carbon is such a big problem that investing in and developing these methods is warfare. Marcius Extavour is one of them. He's the lead for Energy and Climate at Express and the executive director of the Express carbon price to turn CO2 into useable products. We absolutely have to reduce our emissions. That is the most important thing. The question is how? We actually can focus on more than one thing at once. And, actually, to solve the climate problem, we're going to have to focus on many things at once. There are some missions that are very easy to, turn off or reduce immediately. And we're doing that, and we need to do more of that. There are other sources of emissions, that aren't electricity that are much harder. For instance, flight, or, driving, all of our manufacturing. Most of it does not run on electricity, a lot of it runs on heat. Where does that heat come from fossil fuels. There's probably no single [INAUDIBLE] Method that's going to get us over the finish line because the frankly the pile of co2 we have to deal with is so massive. By this agreements, all actors in this field just like the scientific consensus, say that the earth is warming that human activities are the main cause, in that climate change is a problem we must address. The question is how? [SOUND]

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