I’ve said it before. We can’t solve climate change without carbon dioxide removal.
In this month’s Gist, we herald the launch of the Carbon Removal Alliance, a consortium of 20+ companies to advocate for policy to develop this nascent market.
Have an idea for an upcoming topic? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some ideas we’re talking about are building codes, EV charger uptimes and dense housing. We welcome feedback.
We Need a Bigger Carbon Removal Boat
Two years ago, if you had told me that we’d be working at the forefront of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) tech and helping to launch a new organization to create a scalable market for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, I would have called you crazy.
In short, carbon removal was barely on my radar and, to the extent it was, I was skeptical. Carbon removal seemed like a distraction from the hard work needed to decarbonize our cars, buildings, and power systems.
And then in the summer of 2021, I met Peter Reinhardt, the CEO of Charm Industrial and reconnected with former colleague, Nan Ransohoff, the head of Stripe Climate. They knocked some climate sense into me. Not only did we need carbon removal to hit our climate goals, the tech was finally emerging that could get us there.
The big problem? Without the right policies (see our Gist from last year here), that technology would never scale.
We did see some meaningful federal policy changes in 2021.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create four regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs, large-scale innovation centers that will showcase the scale and impact of direct air capture technologies, and storage and utilization projects. And the Inflation Reduction Act will deliver billions of dollars in incentives for some forms of CDR (it mistakenly failed to make any room for newer emerging technologies - see more on that below).
But it’s still not nearly enough. As best as we can tell, CDR companies have permanently removed close to 10,000 tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. That’s 1 million times short (not a typo) of the annual removal needed - a massive deficit.
We need to move MUCH faster. How do we do that? We need a bigger boat.
The Carbon Removal Alliance
That’s why last week more than 20 companies — both buyers and sellers of carbon removal — banded together (with some help from team Ad Hoc, h/t Annie Gilleo) to launch the Carbon Removal Alliance (CRA) — a recognition that this emerging industry needs to work together to advocate for policies at the federal and state level that will create a market for permanent carbon removal solutions. Giana Amador, formerly of Carbon180, is leading the group.
The CRA has declared what should be the guiding principles for the industry. In short, policies should encourage innovation by emphasizing criteria — permanence, net negativity, additionality and verifiability — rather than promoting specific technology types.
The org is putting a stake in the ground saying that we need to store carbon for a thousand years because that’s how long it would stay in the atmosphere, and that each project results in removing carbon that otherwise wouldn’t have been removed.
And, finally, we need to encourage the growth of many technologies because there is no silver bullet. After all, compared to the oil and gas industry, CDR is nascent. Shell is 115 years old. Most CDR companies are children by comparison. Technology that hasn’t been developed yet could play a significant role in removing carbon.
Indeed, emerging CDR technologies can read a little like sci-fi. Companies like Heirloom are pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in limestone or, in partnership with CarbonCure, even in concrete. Climeworks is using giant fans to suck carbon from the air. Lithos spreads rock on croplands to increase carbon uptake and trap it. Ebb Carbon boosts the ocean’s ability to store carbon from the air.
Blue and Red States Can Both Win
I’m optimistic that CDR will find support across the political divide. Just look at what’s already happening at the state level.
California recently updated its already aggressive climate plan with new carbon removal targets. The plan is to capture 20 million metric tons of CO2 by 2030 and 100 million metric tons by 2045. Legislation passed last year begins to unlock funding for CDR projects carried out in the state.
Legislators in Massachusetts are also looking for ways to spur CDR innovation. In January, a bill was introduced, SD 371, that would set an advanced market commitment for CDR, starting at 10,000 tons in 2024 and scaling up to 50,000 tons in 2028. It hasn’t passed yet, but it’s an indicator of what’s to come.
And yet, many red states are well-positioned for project deployment because of their existing industrial centers and oil and gas workforce and infrastructure. They’ve made clear that in the end they’re happy to benefit from CDR policies whether they’re homegrown or incentivized by Washington.
Wyoming is positioning itself as an ideal location to host a DAC Hub. Louisiana wants to be a Hub too. And Charm Industrial is injecting bio-oil in Kansas, which has a lot of old oil and gas infrastructure, to prove it’s ready to scale.
Put the right supports in place, and everyone stands to benefit. This creates win-win situations, and that’s the only way we solve this climate thing.
News from Our Network
From our clients:
We’re bullish on climate tech startups working to prevent devastating forest fires. BoxPower mini power stations mitigate risk for remote communities, and they raised a Series A.
Wenbo Shi of Singularity Energy on why we need to better leverage data to decarbonize.
Raising a Series B in this investment environment is no small feat, which makes Aeroseal’s recent $30 million series B from OGCI Climate Investments all the more impressive.
Appliance makers are seeing big spikes in sales of induction ranges and ovens. WSJ speaks to Sam D’Amico of Impulse on why their range is good for remodels.
We live in a time of megafires, and climate tech companies are trying to save us. Fast Company features Pano for its AI capabilities to spot and stop fires.
To avoid greenwashing, companies need better accountability around carbon. Forbes features AiDash and Singularity Energy and their work to do exactly that.
My Climate Journey interviews Peter Reinhardt of Charm Industrial.
Blackouts continue to plague the US. Joseph Vellone of ev.energy writes for Forbes on how EV companies can better support energy grids.
Congrats to Therma° on raising a $19 Million Series A. They’re using AI to help restaurants avoid food waste and reduce energy use.
Lara Beers of Kraken Technologies in Utility Dive on how energy companies can turn the US into a clean energy powerhouse.
From friends and colleagues:
Motor raised a $7 million round from AES and Mitsubishi making it easier for customers to switch to electric cars. H/t Praveen Kathpal.
Our inability to build transmission lines slows down progress in cleaning up the grid. Our friend Rob Gramlich is quoted in this three-part CNBC series on transmission troubles.
Leaky methane wells are a big problem given their potency as a greenhouse gas. Happy to see Biosqueeze raise a $7.4 million Series A to solve this.
Jobs in our network:
ev.energy: Utility Project Manager
Project Canary: Director of Customer Success - Regulatory
Scout Motors: Director, Government Affairs & Public Policy
Washington State: Policy Advisor (Climate Sustainability)
Energicity: Chief of Staff
Evergreen Climate Innovations: Director of Marketing & Communications
Terraset: Executive Director
Aeroseal: Product Manager
Alliance for Transportation Electrification Meeting (Washington, D.C., March 17)
Annie Gilleo and James Schulte will be attending
ARPA-E Innovation Summit (Washington, D.C., March 22-24)
Max Tuttman is moderating a panel
If you’re coming to DC, stop in Old Town, Alexandria, and visit my friend Nicole’s joint, Virginia’s Darling. It just got an amazing write-up from the top food critic of The Washington Post. It’s also downstairs from our office. Just saying.