Plain English with Derek Thompson - Carbon Removal Might Be the World’s Most Important Technology. How Does It Work

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I’m Matt Bellamy founding partner of Puck news and I’m covering the inside conversation about money and power in Hollywood, with my new show, the town I’m going to take you inside Hollywood with exclusive inside on what people in Show, Business are actually talking about multiple times a week.


I’ll talk to some of the smartest people I know journalists insiders, all of whom can break down the hottest topics and entertainment.

Tell you what’s really going on.

Listen now, Today a trip to the frontier of technology and an idea that might just help save the world from climate change if it works.


So, last year, somebody explained, the problem of climate change to me with a metaphor that I haven’t really been able to forget.

They said, imagine a bathtub.

The bathtub is the planet’s atmosphere.

And the faucet is on full blast and it’s quickly filling up with water.


The gushing faucet represents every source of carbon emissions in the world.

From Big agriculture to energy.

Companies to cars cow farts.

The water is the carbon itself.

And the challenge of climate change mitigation is actually really straightforward.


We need to stop the water from filling the tub spilling over the edge and destroying the planet.

There are a lot of environmentalists and federal policies that focus on one part of this picture.

They want to turn the tap turn the faucet reduce emissions.


That’s what wind solar geothermal nuclear energy do.

That’s what electric cars do and it’s, of course, an absolutely essential goal.

But think about it, a very full, tub can still overflow even with a slower dripping faucet.


And we know the tub is full because a lot of carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time.

To think bigger to save the world, we need a plan that goes beyond the faucet, we need to drain water from the Basin by pulling the plug at the bottom of the tub.


That is there to suck a huge amount of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and flush it away.

So how do you pull the plug?

Well trees remove carbon from the atmosphere.

So do grasslands, so does soil, but to avoid the worst effects of climate change.


We may need to develop and scale new technologies that can do the work of a billion trees, hundreds of millions of miles of grasslands.

In the last few years, I’ve become very interested in a technology called carbon removal and especially direct air capture DAC, or DAC.


Like imagine basically a giant Factory that pulls carbon from the atmosphere and buries, it kind of like a vacuum cleaner for the skies.

This technology exists, kind of, it’s still incredibly expensive in in August 20, 22.

It’s not remotely.


Close to being a global solution for climate change but there is a chance.

It might represent the most important technological development or the space where the most important technological development has to happen in the 2020s and 2030s because if you understand the problem of the tub and the faucet and the water you realize how essential it is.


Pull the plug.

Despite all the good news in the u.s. recently about natural gas replacing coal, the falling price of Solar and wind and Battery Technology.

The passage of the II ra the global truth.

The global truth is that the world is not moving nearly fast enough to decarbonize.


Coal consumption is not going down.

In fact, the International Energy agency estimates, that Global coal consumption will set a new record high in 2023.

The faucet is still going full blast.

Today’s guest is Gianna Amador.


She is the co-founder and policy director of carbon 180 in interdisciplinary organization devoted to carbon removal Technologies.

And in this episode she explains how it works.

How different carbon removal Technologies actually work?


Why there aren’t already a million carbon removal, plants all over the world.

She talks about the technology and cost problems of vacuuming the Here.

And why some people think this Tech won’t ever work in the first place?

I love sometimes being able to jump off the new cycle from time to time and do these glimpses into the future of tech.


If you have a futuristic now technology or science that you’d like us to do episodes on please email us request it and plain English, it

I’m Derek Thompson.

This is plain English.



Welcome to the podcast.

Thanks for having me.

I want to start with what might sound a listeners.

Like a bit of a strange way into the story.

You and I have a bit of a history.

We’ve talked a few times for a couple other projects that I’ve been working on and I know a little bit about your origin story in this space and how interesting and Sort of unusual, it is.


So I want you to tell me about page for 85-page. 485 section, six nine one.

One of the 2014 fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

Tell me the story of this page and how it changed your life.


Absolutely, that’s page haunts me at night, very a lot of thoughts on page 4, 85, but I think stepping back a little bit.

Do you know before paid for 85 was an existence in 2014?


I had been doing a lot of research on climate change and in particular state level renewable energy policy and I had also starting in 2014 began working on sustainable development nonprofit.

That was really focused on clean energy access in Nicaragua.


And I think being in the climate space for so long.

There’s almost like a Communications Problem.

I think both with people who work in the field and with the general public in the fact that a lot of the ways that we communicate about climate change, are in very technical forms, we use a lot of, like degrees warming feet of sea level rise.


And in that way, I think we dehumanize a lot of the impacts of climate change.

And when I was in a caraga, I think I really had the opportunity to see firsthand a lot of the climate impacts that were affecting people today, and this was really kind of like, I think a little Bit of the come-to-jesus moment for me to say oh we always talk about the fact that we’ve already experienced one degree Celsius of warming, but that actually has real demonstrable impacts for these people who you know, are moving sand bags out to the coast every day to help prevent erosion and to protect their land from sea level rise.


At the same time, you know, the Sun, the community where I grew up in in the Central Valley of California, which is a very agriculture focused Community was experiencing the worst drought that they had.

Ever seen on record, the California snowpack was the lowest it had been in the last 500 years.


So I was sort of at this point where I was extremely frustrated with our lack of climate progress, and was really seeing the impacts that it was meaning, or that I was creating for people on a day-to-day basis.

And I think when the ipcc, which is the intergovernmental panel on climate change, came out with their fifth assessment report.


I was like, okay, we gotta do something something needs to To shaft and I think, like you said, buried, 485 Pages.

Deep into this report, there was about two sentences with an assumption that we needed to.

Not only reduce our emissions drastically and rapidly, but we also needed to clean up carbon that was already in the atmosphere and as someone who’d worked in the climate space for a number of years, this is something that was never brought up.


I had no idea what carbonyl was.

I was shocked and I think that really I think kicked into gear The idea that in order to move faster in order to put more climate Solutions in our tool belts, we can, you know, bring these carbon removal solutions to life and really helped bolster climate change and, you know, prevent some of those impacts from happening.


It’s fantastic.

And I think it’s so interesting and telling that this technology was yes, 485 pages into the document.

So in 2014, this was way, way, way on the back burner and it’s interesting.

Eating to me to see it come forward, forward forward.


And obviously carbon 180 is doing important work there.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this technology, I think it’s important to lay the table here.

So I in the open talked a little bit about this popular metaphor of the tub and why it’s so important to drain the carbon tub.


But there’s a couple different terms that I think are really important to nail before.

We talk about strategies to drain the tub and those terms are carbon capture.

Carbon removal and carbon sequestration just really quickly so that we can like jump past this and get into the fun stuff.


Can you tell me what the difference is between carbon capture carbon removal and carbon sequestration?


So glad you asked about definitions.

I think one I’ll start with carbon capture typically, when were referring to carbon capture, we’re referring to a tech of set of Technologies called carbon capture and sequestration or CCS.


This is actually capturing carbon from a Point source.

So it’s either an electrical facility like a natural gas, power plant or an industrial facility like a cement factory.

And what we’re doing in these situations is capturing carbon from the smokestack before it goes into the air and these Technologies are not neutral.


So they’re an emissions reduction technique, they prevent more emissions from going into the atmosphere.

On the other hand, carbon removal Solutions are ways that we actually clean up carbon emissions that are already in the air.

So, these are our Legacy or are Store the commission’s that you know back to page 47 verse using 485, we need to clean up the pass emissions that are already in the air and we can do this through a whole portfolio of solutions from land-based Solutions like forestry and carbon sequestration in our soils to also Technologies like direct are capture.


And so these two whole portfolio Solutions are referred to as carbon removal.

And these are the ones that allow us to not only go Net Zero but actually - right, right?

And that’s why carbon removal is the most exciting part of this for me.

And what I kind of want to focus on in the next few minutes.

So within the category of carbon removal, as you said, there’s stuff that people are pretty familiar with like trees trees are a carbon removal technology.


A carbon removal technology invented by planet Earth herself.

There’s another technology that I want to talk about which is called, direct are capture or DAC.


I want you to explain to me how DAC works because I think it’s going to sound to some people.


Little bit like magic and maybe other people are going to think it sounds like fraud.

So like explain to me how the process of like slurping, the skies for carbon actually works.

I’ll take director can capture technology actually has a pretty long history and the cool thing is that it was not originally invented as a climate technology, it was originally invented to help us explore places that are unlivable for us.


So on spacecrafts and and submarines, how do we actually Really filter out CO2 that humans naturally expel when they’re breathing to make sure that these sort of like contained cabins are actually livable.

And what we were able to do is actually transition that technology to say actually, how do we clean up carbon from the atmosphere and so the way that these Technologies work is they are essentially you can think of them as a very, very large fan.


And you know, they’re out in the middle of, let’s say the desert and the air is passing through this very large fan, and on sort of the back side of the fan.

You’ll see that there’s a like a chemical basically.

It causes a chemical reaction with the ambient air and this chemical really selectively binds with carbon dioxide.


And nothing else that’s in the ambient air.

So we’re selectively binding with the CO2 as it passes through.

This giant fan, we typically use electricity or humidity to then separate the chemical from the CO2.

And what we’re left with is just a pure stream of CO2, it’s in sort of like actress.


Us form and from there we have two options of what we do with that.

CO2 either, we utilize it in products or we store it permanently underground.

Before we go one level deeper to talk about what we do with this carbon.

I just want to point out that I read the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is roughly that of a drop of ink in a swimming pool.


So this technology is like so extraordinary in terms of binding to the carbon that is in the atmosphere, slurping it into this space, that then can be isolated and Shirred for good.


Is this when people look at this technology and we think about this technology then we can just build factories that are vacuuming the skies for carbon dioxide.


You know.

Maybe one reaction is like okay that sounds like the dream.

That sounds like we’re building, like Mega Forest but concentrated in a tiny Factory.

Why aren’t these plants everywhere just vacuuming this guy’s all over the world for carbon dioxide?

Why is this technology just totally Ubiquitous yeah, the short answer is that.


It’s very, very expensive to do today.

And so one of our jobs, you know, as we’re developing, these Technologies is, how do we really deploy them at scale and at cost?

So how do we bring down the cost of director capture?

As we, you know, improve those chemicals, reach economies of scales as we get bigger and bigger plants and also how do we make sure that we deploy them and really responsible way.


So really cost is sort of the big barrier to getting to that like Mega vacuum dream that you’re that you’re explaining so well.

And actually I’m very interested in the question of exactly how we bring down the cost curve but I want to talk about the carbon that we capture right now.


So you know to a certain extent the kind of technology that we’re talking about is that of like a super tree.

You know.

Ideally we’d like to build carbon Ruble plans that are essentially doing the work of like tens of millions of trees within the space of one Factory, the downside of a tree one could say, is that?


Yes, it It is very good at absorbing, but it can also release a lot of the carbon that it absorbs through a process called respiration.

So trees, absorb but they also release ideally, we don’t want these vacuum machines to release carbon.

We want them to slurp the carbon and then store it in.


Definitely forever.

So how do we do that?

How do we take the technology from the fan?

Part of this process to the permanent sequestration part of this process?

Yeah, that’s absolutely critical for the climate impact to make sure that car In a stored safely and for you know, thousands of years.


What actually happens when you once you’ve captured the carbon through the director capture process, you actually compress the CO2 and you pump it underground into, you know, previously depleted, they call them geologic, reservoirs, basically it’s you know, space very deep under the ground that sometimes it’s filled with salt water that are sort of open areas in which we can pump and store carbon.


Dioxide and the good news is that the federal government and actually countries across the globe, have spent decades understanding, you know, how can we safely pump CO2 underground and how do we monitor it to make sure it actually stays there and a lot of that experience comes from research along those traditional carbon capture and sequestration plants that we talked about earlier, tell me where we are right now, what how expensive is it to vacuum?


This guy of carbon dioxide.

And what how far away is that price?

From where we need this to be in order to scale it meaningfully.


Right now where we see director capture costs on average.

I would say ranging from 200 to 600 dollars per ton of CO2.


This is really for I would say the set of director capture technologies that are most mature today and are the ones that are really deploying on a meaningful scale, where we would like to see that price is definitely below $100 per ton of CO2 and I think at scale below fifty dollars per ton of CO2, I think again the good news like you said, We are really good in the United States at developing technology and bringing down the cost.


And we’ve seen that with other Technologies, like renewable energy where we were able to bring the cost of solar, PV the in the 70s, from seventy dollars, a watt to now less than five cents per watt.

And so we want to be able to follow those similar playbooks for director capture, in terms of the kind of factories that are operating at the level of technology that you just mentioned about five hundred, six hundred dollars per ton.


How many of those are in use right now open and working.

In the u.s. in North America around the world.

Yeah, there’s over a dozen director capture plants across the globe today.

The largest plant is capturing about 4,000, tons of CO2 per year and across all of the demonstration facilities were capturing about.


Tens of thousands of tons.

There is a plan to significantly scale that up and I think in the next few years will see a couple more director capture facility come online that are capturing 1 million tons of CO2 and where do we have to get to?

Like what at what point are we actually draining the tub and not just trying our hardest to look, keep the water level roughly even.


So the climate model said that we need to be capturing by 2050 about 10 billion tons of CO2 per year, my God’s across all of the carbon removal solution, so it doesn’t have to just come from direct aerocapture.

But we really are today talking about, you know, first-of-a-kind drop in the bucket towards that 10 billion ton goal.


But again, like we’re in the early.

Is when carbon 180 started.

There were no commercial operational facilities for director capture.

So we’ve actually come a really long way in just the last five or six years, right?

So you just made me think about solar cell technology.


So the photovoltaic cell was invented by Bell labs in the 1950s in the 1960s and 1970s different governments were trying out different sort of subsidy, plans to figure out, how to deploy solar energy, how to bring down, the cost of solar energy, but it was only in the 2010s in early. 20s.


Now that solar energy is actually Fallen below, some competing dirty energy in terms of price.

So by analogy, what decade are we in with carbon removal?

Are we in the 1950s?

Like, this thing was just invented and we’re trying to figure out what the hell it is.


Are we in the 60s, 70s, where government programs are coming in and trying to figure out how to master Ploy the tech, or are we in the 2010s 2020s?

We’re like, we are just around the corner potentially, from seeing Carbon removal technology, just explode in popularity, I would say we’re like solar in the 70s, okay?


I’m like, we, we know the technology works.

We have you no line of sight to how we bring me solutions to scale, but we’re very much investing and first-of-a-kind projects investing in breakthrough, research and development.

And just beginning to see, you know, first markets crop up to help make these Solutions more competitive.


So, I would say we’re in the 70s but like, I believe we can Can fast-forward to the 2010’s and I think we have to for the climate maps are really pencil out.

Alright, well actually, let’s play with this metaphor and talk about fast forwarding because one of the ways that solar technology was fast, forwarded was through government policy, not often in the US, but maybe in places like Japan and South Korea and China.


So, tell me what you think we need from the government versus what the government is actually providing in terms of accelerating a carbon removal into the future.


And maybe I can start with like what’s happened to date, I’ll say when When idea was founded, there was effectively zero dollars in funding for a director capture ever within the federal government and just in the past, you know, five to six years.


We’ve seen that number jump from zero to over a billion dollars per year.

Appropriated annually for carbon removal solution.

So that’s a pretty significant jump.

A lot of that funding is going to research and development for carbon removal Solutions.

But it’s also going to a new program that was just established and the bipartisan infrastructure law called.


And the regional director capture helps program and this would create four Regional misjudgment when make sure so Regional direct are captures hubs program.

Correct okay.

Yeah, and the idea I mean is it’s just what it sounds like, we’re going to create for hubs across the United States in which we can deploy carbon removal and in particular director capture at the million tons scale.


So each facility and or sort of like subgroup of facilities will capture up to a million tons.

So this is like a four hundred Increase in the total, Global capacity of director capture and will see these projects come to fruition over the sort of like next five years or so.


So that is a really sort of important step change in both the type of funding that we’re seeing from the federal government and also the scale of deployment for director capture.

So we’ve got director capture, we want to build Sky vacuums, you want to scale it dramatically.

We want to accelerate from the 1970s to the 2010s, in a few years because this is a matter of absolute plan.


Terry urgency, I want to put deck on ice for a second and move to something another category of carbon sink.

You could call it, which is what you guys call your soil carbon moonshots.

I think most people understand we’ve already talked about in this show.


That there’s all sorts of plants that are good carbon sinks.

Good carbon absorbance trees, are one grasslands are another.

You guys are working on what you call a soil carbon moonshot, Essentially accelerate and amplify.


The capacity of the Earth itself to do some of this soil of this carbon absorbing work.

Tell me about your soil moonshot.

Yeah, absolutely.

So I think what’s really exciting again about the carpenter will space is that there are so many solutions that our fingertips ones that we already know about ones.


We probably haven’t even dreamed about.

I think one that I’m, you know, very personally, excited about and connected to is particularly lose it.

Using our agriculture land.

As a way to store carbon in our soils, so those are actually one of the largest carbon sinks next to the ocean.


And so we have a real, there’s a real capacity to be able to harness that potential and store carbon and our soils by farming in ways that encourages more long-term carbon sequestration.

So some of these practices might be things that people have heard of maybe not cover cropping, no one load till agriculture agroforestry which is basically planting trees on agricultural lands.


So a number of different practice me.

Stop you there.

I basically don’t understand what any of that is.

I like, I don’t want to expose my like pathetic, agricultural ignorance.

But like, I don’t know what any of that is.

So feel Define the first two in particular because the I was completely lost.

Yeah, no, I’m sorry, typically the idea of cover cropping it will start.


There is that Maybe taking a step back, I think.

The prince of the bowls around storing carbon and soils really come down to protecting soils as much as possible from erosion.

And from overturn, really, we want to allow the soil microbes and the soil biodiversity to sort of do its job and naturally convert organic carbon from the plants into inorganic carbon which is like a much more stable form of carpet and and to do that, we want to keep basically the soil as As possible.


So one way that you do that is through no and load tillage.

Typically the way that we Farm is every planting season.

We take a big tractor and we kind of like disc up all the dirt and we use that as a way to sort of like expedite planting and incorporate like plant matter into the soil basically stopping as much sort of tillage and breaking up of the soil as possible.


Cover cropping is a way to keep more of the soil covered throughout the growing season.


So, let’s say that, you have an almond Orchard, you can actually in between the rows, plant crops that cover the soil, and that keeps more, and more of the soil protected, more carbon in the soils, and there’s a number of other techniques that, you know, are a little more Frontier or less popular or, or just take different approaches to ways that we can store more carbon into the soil.


So basically, there’s a whole set of agricultural practices that Based on where you are in the u.s., what your soil type is like what you’re growing that then makes sense for you to implement.

As a way to store.

Carbon the difference between the sort of human Tech side of carbon removal like director capture and the land side is such an interesting lesson in science to me because what you’re saying is there are ways that we can, you know, remove carbon from the atmosphere by building new things that don’t exist yet and like working on technology to pull All this Tech down the cost curve and have this techie Revolution.


But on the land side, you’re saying there’s actually all these techniques that we’ve learned from scientific research, and scientific observation, or just much better for absorbing carbon and hold, and carbon in the earth so that, it isn’t, you know, choking the planet.


Yeah, I think the good news is that those practices.

Actually, I would say came less from specific climate research and instead are much more of a product of, you know, Historical indigenous knowledge and permaculture practices that farmers have implemented for decades.


In order to get other ecosystem benefits, like, improved water, retention improve resiliency to things like drops of blood.

So, a lot of times these practices are actually really helpful for farmers and they also especially help them in the face of climate change.

I think we’re the sort of Science and or kind of like policy question of like, how do we actually get these practices to scale comes in?


Is when When how do we actually, like, measure and verify the climate impact of storing carbon in soil so that we can appropriately like develop incentives around them?

So, today, you know, it’s really difficult for us to actually measure how much carbon is stored in soils.


We know how to do it.

Basically, you go out to a field in a statistically significant way.

You take hundreds of soil samples that are each, a meter deep.

So, you’re taking basically a giant core, you can think of it like a straw and you’re sticking it into the soil and then you’re sending.

To a lab where they basically light it on fire, and estimate, how much carbon is stored in the soil and that has to be done hundreds of times over thousands of acres.


And so, it’s really not scalable or implementable for Farmers to do especially when Farmers have so many other priorities, just to keep their operations running.

And so, one of the core sort of scientific advancements that we need is being able to better monitor report and verify or mrv the carbon that’s in our soil.


And And there’s a lot of, really exciting innovations that are happening on the side, thinking about using remote sensing or soil sensors to better, be able to estimate the amount of carbon, that’s in our soils.

And that would really unlock our ability to store carbon and soils.

Because you really can’t measure, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.


And so that’s sort of the missing Gap today to help farmers make those decisions and for policymakers to develop incentives around it.

I want to move to talking about some criticisms of this movement.

One line of criticism comes from the financial sector.


I want to read a critique of carbon sequestration from Michael’s symbolist who is the chairman of Market investment strategy.

For JP Morgan asset and wealth management.

In one of his recent pieces that I subscribe to.


He wrote quote, one of the highest ratios in the world of energy science is the number of academic Papers written on carbon sequestration, divided by the actual amount of carbon sequestration, which is about 0.1 percent of global emissions at last count.


He continues the infrastructure.

Required for Meaningful geologic, carbon sequestration would be enormous to sequester just 15 to 20 percent of u.s. carbon dioxide emissions.

With traditional carbon capture and storage would exceed the volume of all us oil production in 2019.


That is a lot of infrastructure that does not exist.

This is akin to a criticism that some other energy thinkers have lobbied against carbon removal which is that it’s just going to take way too much stuff way too much infrastructure and therefore cannot occupy a central role in our climate change policy.


What is your reaction to this line of criticism?

I mean there’s a lot in there, that is absolutely fair.

I would say there’s an opportunity to look at this in a very optimistic light of the fact that in order to meet the climate problem, we actually need to either drastically revolutionize or create new industries from scratch.


And that is actually a very good thing when we’re thinking about Economic Development, job creation, local community benefits.

And so I think it’s totally fair to say, you know, there’s a huge Infrastructure challenge that comes with carbon sequestration, but is there an opportunity for us to build that infrastructure in a way that aligns with, you know, where we want the world to be Beyond just compliment?


And I think in particular, it seems like a lot of these statistics are particularly looking at Carbon capture and sequestration which has in many ways and then Tuesday, all it’s a traditional carbon capture and sequestration again, referring to carbon capture specifically on point source electricity generation.


So this is like, GCS on a coal plant CCS on a natural gas facility.

And the reason why a lot of that, those projects have never come to fruition is because a lot of them are what we call, like retrofitting projects.

So how do we add this technology once?


The plant is already built which poses a number of engineering and class challenges and then to, we did a great job of developing renewable, energy technology and bringing those solutions to price, parity where carbon capture and sequestration became less important for the climate at math and Less economic compared to other Renewable Energy Technologies.


So I would say that there’s a lot that we can learn from the traditional CCS trajectory but it is, I think very separated from where we need to go with the carbon removal space.

And I think one of again, the advantages of having this whole portfolio of solutions land and Tech at our fingertips, is that, you know, maybe in 10 years, we’ll have instead of ten Technologies at our fingertips three, that we feel really confident that make economic Makes sense.


You know that we can invest in infrastructure and create the most co-benefits for their communities in which they’re located.

And so there will be I think I’m narrowing process once we’re able to bring more of these solutions to scale and figure out what technology works and what doesn’t right?

The second critique comes from environmentalists.


There are a lot of people who say that carbon capture and storage is a boondoggle and it’s a boondoggle that lets the oil and gas companies off the hook.

In fact, it creates a moral hazard because it allows them to continue building their dirty energy factories while telling the world.


Oh, you know, we’re we’re capturing everything we promised like, you know, we’re not adding a single drop to the tub.

What’s your response to the environmentalist?

Critique of carbon removal?

That it’s just making it easier for Journey.

Energy companies to stay dirty for me.

I really come back to the climate math and we know that in order to meet our climate goals, to prevent the worst effects of climate change.


We need to clean up carbon from the atmosphere and We know that in order like, in order to meet our climate math, we know that fossil fuel companies, cannot continue to embed.

And in many cases when they say they’d be they’re invested in carbon capture and sequestration technology or carbon removal technology.


There’s very little substance behind those announcements and very little.

I think good faith effort in many cases to actually, either reduce their emissions and, or invest in carbon removal Solutions.

I think one of the really important lenses that we take at Carbon 182.


Carbon removal is be sure that we’re focusing on cleaning up our Legacy emissions.

So it’s not about, you know, offsetting for natural, gas, power plant today.

But it’s actually about how do we clean up historic or Legacy emissions that are already in the atmosphere?


And I think that frame shift is, what gets us away from the moral hazard question.

It’s a both/and situation.

We need to produce emissions.

We need to reduce our Reliance on fossil fuels, and we need to clean up.

Carbon that we’ve already put in the ass that Miss fear because we just haven’t moved fast enough.


I think one of the important things is how do we actually use accountability structures to prevent these fossil fuel companies from Darrell developing carbon removal Solutions in a way that we don’t want them to?

So how do we use federal policy support to help develop and deploy these Technologies in way that don’t perpetuate?


A lot of the harms that fossil fuel companies have done and so I think that’s really what a lot of our policy work at Carbon 80 is focused on is like, how do we do this in a right way that disconnected from a lot of the very real?

Real harms that fossil fuel companies have perpetuated across the globe.

What has happened recently is that some of the larger tech companies have gotten into the business of doing these Advanced Market commitment to purchase carbon removal Solutions, stripe meta Shopify, Google.


I think maybe McKinsey is, well, announced a combined 900 million dollar commitment to help you sort of buy these, you know, Advanced commitments.

To carbon removal, tell me a little bit about about What this space is.

What are they actually buying here?


And how will it get us to where we want to go faster?

Yeah, I’ll say the so the group of companies together they’re referred to as Frontier and they made again this commitment of about 1 billion dollars to purchase carbon removal tons and I think it’s a huge has a huge impact on the field and I think that’s for a number of reasons.


One, if we go back to kind of like our solar analogy, solar energy was entering a market.


That was very well-developed people already sold electrons.

People already had electricity in our house but there’s not actually a well-developed market for carbon removal Solutions.

No one is paying for the tons to be cleaned up from the atmosphere today.


So what these companies have done is said, hey, we’ll go out on a limb.

We think this technology needs to be here in 20 years and will be the first customer and it’s okay if it’s really expensive today.

But what we want to do is pay for really high quality, tons, that are Viable, that help support Technology Innovation.


And also create, as many kind of environmental or Community co-benefits as possible.

And that is a really important signal for solution, developers.

One that there’s going to be someone who can actually purchase their tons.

But to is really important for these startups to raise money and to get financing like, can you imagine going to an investor and saying, hey, I have no one’s going to be like no one is gonna buy this in 20 years, but I really need you to lend me some money.


Now to do this, Technology development.

It just doesn’t it just doesn’t happen.

And so, by having these first customers, they really unlock a ton of other private sector capital.

And I’ll also say, from the policy side, I think it creates a pretty powerful narrative that the federal government if they help support the developing, these Technologies, the private sector can then sort of like offload or take that and turn it into a real market.


Now I’m realizing I should have asked this question earlier but I guess I’ll do it right now.

How Is carbon removal of business.

Like, when we burn coal, it releases carbon into the atmosphere, but it creates electricity so that I can, you know, work on my computer and turn on the lights.


So that’s why I pay for it.

But how is capturing that carbon from the atmosphere?

And burying it in the ground?

A consumer business like who is going to pay these companies to do this?

I think the answer is there’s not a well developed market for carbon removal Solutions today and that’s actually one of the core challenges.


That comes with scaling these Solutions.

Right now there’s no penalty for putting carbon in the air so there’s no value really beyond the sort of like public, good of reducing the impacts of climate change to actually capture and store.

That carbon through carbon removal.


I will say there are a number of, you know, policy incentives and private sector purchases that are happening.

That people are using as sort of first markets for these Solutions direct their capture facilities in particular, like I mentioned The ability to not only sequester the carbon underground but also utilize it and products.


So basically any product that comes from fossil fuels today can be made from director capture.

So as an emissions reduction strategy that creates a first market for some of these Solutions.

In order to help pave the way for longer-term scale.

Are you saying that the business will be to create zero carbon products or that it will be both to create zero carbon products?


But also sometimes just like, put this stuff in the ground And and hope that the government or companies will pay for like the semi-permanent sequestration of carbon.

Yeah, in the long run, both in law in the long run, this scale that’s required by the climate crisis, requires us to put carbon in the ground.


It’s just not going to be possible to have enough products then which we could store 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

So really what we’re looking at in particular is I think the federal government directly procuring carbon removal services.

So in essence buying carbon removal tons and saying will pay Basically, for this public good.



So it’s in that sense.

It’s literally like a municipal trash service, right?

Like exactly taking up of the trash doesn’t like get me.


The same way that making the trash gets me my salad.

You know what I mean?

Like, I have a salad.

I create trash.


The trash is removed.

I pay for the trash removal through local taxes.

And I’m not like, what, what is this getting me?

It’s like, know what is getting me is like not a mountain of trash outside of my house.

And unfortunately, Lee carbon is not as obviously, disgusting as trash is so they don’t have the same kind of immediate visceral urgency to remove carbon but theoretically we can develop policies and I kind of global ethic to remove carbon dioxide.


The same way, we remove trash and put it away for good, or for almost forever.


Is that a exactly?

Think about it.

Okay, Perfect Analogy.

Okay, cool, let’s talk a little bit about the last week.

There’s been all sorts of really interesting developments in.


Climate policy in.

Just the last few days, you’ve got the chips and science act.

You’ve got the inflation reduction act which is a little bit of a misnomer because everyone in the climate world thinks of the inflation reduction act as this massive potentially record-breaking investment in green infrastructure.


What are you most excited about in these two pieces of legislation for carbon removal specifically, as as climate people not used to this much, good news?

Like, I think this week, I think we’re really excited.


Both and then pushing reduction Act, and the chips and science act to see investments in climate change.

Generally, there was an analysis done by the rhodium group that said that some of the Investments across the implication reduction Act of 2022, could reduce carbon dioxide from 2005 levels to about 44 percent.


So this is actually a pretty big step in the right direction.

And some of that really comes down to carbon removal Solutions and particular there.

A couple wins in the infrastructure or Sabine in the inflation reduction act that I think will be important to draw attention.


To one is a some changes to the 45 Q tax credit, which is a part of the tax code.

It’s essentially a production tax credit to capture and store carbon dioxide.

So we’re able to increase the credit values to $180 per ton for direct are Capture Plus sequestration, as well as make.


A couple other changes that would allow other companies, especially small startups, be able to access that incentive more so than they have been able to in the past.

And then to we saw really dramatic Investments and increases and some of the core conservation programs that are run by the USDA with the focus on increasing funding for what they call, climate-smart agriculture practices, which included some of the things that we talked around about soil carbon sequestration.


And then finally in the chips and science act, we saw a 1 billion dollar 1 billion dollar authorization for carbon removal research at the department of Energy’s.

It’s called the fossil energy and carbon Management program, but it’s really the sort of Research Unit that works most closely on carbon removal.


So it’s very soon, very big Investments, right?

So when you, when you, when you break out carbon removal into there’s the tech piece which even DAC.

And there’s the land.

Peace, this affects both of those pieces and then also further Upstream funds with a billion dollars funds research Each that could affect both of them.


That’s very cool.

John Amador.

Thank you so much for helping us think through this really important issue and maybe we’ll see you back very soon.

Sounds great.

Thanks so much.

I’m Jerry Thompson.

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