A company called Carbon Engineering has developed the technology for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a cost-effective way. They have, perhaps surprisingly, received $68 million in funding from fossil fuel companies Chevron, Occidental and BHP.
There has been a growing interest in carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighting the importance of keeping global temperature rises to 1.5C in this century. The report stated: "All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5C with limited or no overshoot project the use of CDR ...over the 21st century."
This new technology works by sucking in air and exposing it a chemical solution that concentrates the CO2. The gas can then be further refined into a form that can be stored or used as a liquid fuel.
The process can turn CO2 into a synthetic crude oil which the company claims can be used in various engines without any further modification. They also state that the fuel burns more cleanly than traditional fuels.
It may seem surprising that fossil fuel companies are the ones investing in this technology - but Carbon Engineering states that it is happy to receive investment in this manner whilst governmental funding is still not forthcoming, as the need for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is so urgent.
Dr Fiona Wild of BHP has suggested that fossil fuels will continue be used regardless, and that CDR is a way of minimising their negative effect on the environment. Climate activists are concerned by this idea, as they feel that we need to commit to moving away from fossil fuels entirely.
Chemistry applicants might consider how chemistry here is being used tackling climate change, whilst Economics applicants may reflect on how the source of funding may or may not impact the development and use of technologies.
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