Climate Tech

The US government’s carbon removal push has begun

Last Friday, the DOE announced plans to lower the cost of carbon removal by 2030, and the infrastructure bill passed with $3.5 billion for direct-air-capture plants.
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Last Friday, direct-air-capture (DAC) tech received not one but two major boosts from the US government.

  • Boost 1: The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a research initiative to bring the cost of carbon removal below $100 a metric ton by 2030—the point at which experts think the tech will become commercially viable.
  • Boost 2: The bipartisan infrastructure bill—which funds DAC plants—passed.

Why it matters: Scientists generally agree that we need to both rein in emissions and remove carbon from the air if we want to keep the world from heating up by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Carbon-removal tech is neither a silver bullet, nor the only way to pull CO2 from the air (hello, trees), but it could prove an efficient tool in bringing down CO2 levels.

Back to the boosts: The new DOE program, unveiled by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in Glasgow, aims to bring the price of carbon removal down by 95% from its current level of up to $2,000 per metric ton, a goal which experts say is plausible. And the infrastructure bill allocates $3.5 billion to build four regional DAC hubs in the US that will have the capacity to capture at least 1,000,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.

  • For context, Climeworks’ Orca DAC plant, currently the largest in the world, cost between $10 million and $15 million to build, and removes 4,000 tons per year. That’s equal to the emissions of about 870 vehicles.

Looking ahead...DAC is still in extremely early days, but with piles of government cash now going toward it, we’ll soon begin to see if it can work at scale. One US–based company, CarbonCapture, recently raised a $35 million series A and plans to commercialize its tech in the next two years.

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