The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $3.5 billion plan on Thursday to establish carbon capture hubs for nationwide carbon removal from the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are one of the main drivers of human-induced climate change. Carbon capture technology is trying to remove it from the air and hopefully reduce CO2 emissions every year. The US is one of the largest emitters in the world and is a major contributor to global warming.
The DOE’s plan calls for four hubs across the country to begin the effort. The plan is in line with President Joe Biden’s goals. His goals put the US on the path to a net-zero economy by 2050.
“President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill is funding new technologies that will not only make our zero-carbon future a reality, but also help position the US as a zero conductor,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
The technology attempts to capture the emissions into the atmosphere and place them deep underground. It can also convert emissions into sustainable products such as concrete. Depending on the type of CO2 capture used, the technology prevents the carbon from being released into the atmosphere. It can also capture carbon directly from the atmosphere.
The DOE estimates that the US will need to deploy gigaton-scale carbon removal. One gigatonne of CO2 removed is equivalent to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions from 250 million American light vehicles per year.
Hubs that the DOE builds only has the power to capture and permanently store one million tons of CO2 per year. This means updates and additional funding are needed to reach a gigaton.
There are also questions about how practical carbon capture is because of the amount of energy it takes. Some also fear that a focus on carbon capture will continue to do those who put it into the atmosphere. Ideally, these companies should switch to renewable, clean energy options such as solar or wind.
“CCS with fossil fuels is distracting from the growth of renewable energy, storage and energy efficiency that will be critical to rapidly reducing emissions in the coming decade,” said a report last year from Friends of the Earth and Global Witness .
“There is huge potential for direct carbon capture technology as part of a diverse climate plan,” Tom Crowther, a tenure-track professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology at ETH Zurich, told CNBC.
But carbon capture is also expensive right now. If the price of putting it in the air becomes higher than catching it, then there is an incentive. Something like a carbon tax would raise that price and thus encourage companies to invest.
“If you start looking at carbon prices now and you have a pretty high price, that’s going to make it more affordable to go to higher capture rates,” Howard Herzog, senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative, told MIT. Climate.
The cost of the technology also hinders innovation in the industry. Many companies providing carbon capture technologies are more interested in profit than innovation.