Elon Musk donates $ 100 million to the most effective carbon seize know-how

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses when he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards in Berlin on December 1, 2020.

Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images

Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that he would “donate $ 100 million for an award for the best carbon capture technology.”

The head of Tesla and SpaceX did not reveal any details beyond the tweet but said “details next week”. Cash rewards for innovation awards aren’t new. For example, the XPRIZE Foundation is a non-profit organization that enables cash prizes to create incentives for innovation.

What is carbon capture technology?

Carbon capture, use, and storage or sequestration (CCUS), often abbreviated as “carbon capture”, is a process of capturing carbon emissions for either storage or reuse to prevent them from being released into the atmosphere be released.

Excess carbon dioxide gases prevent heat from escaping from the earth’s atmosphere and causing global warming. Since the industrial revolution, human activity has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by 47% and is, according to NASA, “the main long-lived” driver “of” climate change “.

Using a competition to encourage innovation in carbon capture technology is “certainly a very good idea,” said Ahmed F. Ghoniem, a professor at MIT who has a research interest in carbon capture technologies. Innovations in carbon capture technology are needed to “reduce the cost and complexity of the technology and improve overall efficiency,” he told CNBC via email.

Carbon capture is not new. According to the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental energy organization, there are currently 21 major commercial CCUS projects around the world. The first was founded in 1972.

So far the carbon capture has been a disappointment.

“The history of CCUS has been largely one of unfulfilled expectations: the potential to contain climate change has been known for decades, but its deployment has been slow and therefore has had a limited impact on global CO2 emissions,” says the International Energy Agency.

But that could change. “There are clear signs that CCUS is gaining momentum,” says the IEA.

The US federal government is “supporting research and development” of carbon sequestration both in finding and evaluating the viability of geological sites to store carbon and in developing technologies to better understand what happens to carbon when it is left in motion The Ministry of Energy is saved for this period.

Telsa did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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