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Carbon Capture is Here: Should we be Worried?

Let me begin with a few brief polls: how many of you remembered a few weeks ago when we calculated our climate footprint? How many of you felt guilty about that footprint? Well, thanks to new technology, that footprint may be able to be eliminated. But is that a positive thing for corporations?

A Swiss start-up, Climeworks, has been taking the Icelandic landscape by innovative storm. Hellisheidi, a geothermal power plant just east of Reykavík, sits next to Orca, the first commercial Direct Air Capture system. Both owned by Climeworks, they work hand-in-hand to turn CO2 into a solidified mass that can be pushed underground to permanently eliminate atmospheric waste. Orca, the centerpiece of this sci-fi delusion turned reality, operates by taking air through four containers that each hold twelve renewable-powered fans to manipulate the CO2 with another unnamed substance. Then, using assistance from the politically-connected corporation Carbfix, a drinkable final water product is generated. To speed up its transition towards becoming a solidified mass, this product is then joined with basalt which can then be placed deep under the surface of the Earth (Wilson 2021).

But where is the money to fund this never-before-seen igloo-like contraption and how does it generate revenue? The answer to the first question is simple; just about everyone wants in on this project. From Audi, to Microsoft, and to 8,000 individual donors who signed up for an online subscription to combat carbon emissions, Climeworks is being funded by a variety of sources to complete groundbreaking research. However, its profit margins hinge on one key stakeholder that isn’t quite on board yet: government. Climework’s profits have stemmed near-entirely from selling “voluntary carbon credits” (Wilson 2021) to entities like the band Coldplay for their 2022 World Tour (Traldi 2021). In the future, Climeworks plans to make money once costs go down and there’s more prevalence of carbon credits on the market. Unfortunately, this requires substantial government-enacted regulatory policy that both taxes polluting corporations and sets netzero carbon emission goals (Wilson 2021; Traldi 2021).

Co-founder Christopher Gebald believes that, if most countries follow these initiatives, then in “three to four decades” (Wilson 2021) this could be the start of a trillion-dollar market. Comparing the anticipated rise of this market to the rise of other forms of green energy, Gebald makes note of the government’s subsidized support for electrical transportation and solar panels and believes that, with similar backing, anything is possible (Wilson 2021). Essentially, Gebald believes that the practice of carbon capture should work side-by-side with government-supported carbon credits (Wilson 2021). This brings me to my first question for the class which is: do you think that, in a market dictated by carbon emissions, a corporation that both sells carbon credit while having the ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere has too much power over the market? Secondly, would a corporation with the ability to reverse its own carbon emissions be empowered to use more of the natural raw materials that are bound to be dwindling in a matter of decades or less?

Original Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/31/climate/is-carbon-capture-here.html

Additional Sources Used: https://www.designatlarge.it/how-the-net-zero-emissions-coldplay-world-tour-2022-works/?lang=en

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