He added in a subsequent tweet that he would provide more details next week, so it’s not yet clear how such a contest will work or even what technologies might be eligible. Carbon capture can refer to methods that prevent greenhouse gas pollution from escaping from power plants and factories, or various ways of removing it from the atmosphere.
Some startups are developing so-called direct air capture machines that extract carbon dioxide molecules from the air; these can then be stored underground or used to create carbon neutral fuels. Other groups are exploring ways to use minerals, trees, plants and ground to reduce greenhouse gases.
However, neither on-site carbon capture nor removal from the air occurs on a large scale today, mainly because it is very expensive and the value of the captured gas is limited at present. But more money and attention is pouring into each of these areas as the dangers of climate change increase.
Climate models show that large amounts of carbon removal will be needed to avoid truly dangerous levels of global warming, given how much we have emitted and how slowly we are moving away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, on-site carbon capture tools may offer promising ways to clean up some delicate industries, such as cement and steel production, or deliver carbon-free electricity from natural gas power plants when intermittent solar and wind sources cease.
A sharply increasing share of countries and companies are betting on some level of carbon capture and removal as part of their emission reduction plans in the decades to come, creating a growing dependence on technologies and methods that remain expensive or untested – and therefore an imperative. to accelerate progress in these spaces.
Musk is only the latest to offer funds in the field, either as a reward or as an investment. A year ago Microsoft plans announced to create a billion dollar fund for “carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies” as it seeks to cancel all of its historic emissions. Start-up in direct air capture such as Climeworks, Carbon Engineering and Global Thermostat have all raised at least tens of millions of dollars as well. And the CarbonX price has offered $ 20 million in prizes to companies developing ways to incorporate carbon dioxide into products, in an effort to create larger markets and greater value for the base gas.
Another $ 100 million could certainly help any business or business land the Musk Prize. But it will also go far. Carbon Engineering, for example, has said previously a large-scale direct air capture plant could cost between $ 300 million and $ 500 million.
Money aside, however, Musk is particularly good at attracting attention. And it’s a space that needs it.