The most recent extreme weather events are no longer anomalies. They illustrate the worrying, long-term reality of climate change and the need for the United States to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late. Our climate is like a ship in the middle of a storm, where persistent rain and unstoppable waves pour more and more water into the hull. In order to save our ship, we must use every means available to bring the water overboard. In other words, we need to decarbonize every available technology and every sector of our economy as soon as possible.
For some, like the energy and transportation sectors, there is a linear path. They need to shut down their fossil fuel power plants and replace them with renewable energies – and then electrify cars and trucks to run on that clean energy. But others – like manufacturing, agriculture, and aviation – are pursuing a less secure path to decarbonization, as there are few mature zero-emission technologies out there and it can take decades (which we don’t have) to do to implement them fully.
So how do we keep the ship afloat long enough to get through the storm safely? One solution is carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, which can remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. In addition to addressing historical emissions, CDR offsets those hard-to-decarbonize industries as they find a way to hit net zero.
Companies like Charm industry, Klimawerk, and heirloom are already developing and implementing CDR technologies with a large number of customers and partners. They remove CO2 from the atmosphere by sequestering carbon in bio-oil from agricultural waste, using direct air capture to filter CO2 from the ambient air, and minerals help absorb CO2 from the air more quickly. These technologies are the beginning of a dynamic and critical carbon removal industry that already has customer partnerships with large companies like. has built Microsoft, Shopify, and Stripes. Despite this strong start, we need more companies and entrepreneurs to get involved – and for that we need help from the federal government.
Just as federal efforts are required to accelerate renewable energy adoption and electrification of transport, CDR companies will need similar federal investments to reverse the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. We are confident that CDR, when appropriately incentivized, can be both an important climate solution to residual carbon emissions and an important job creation factor.
The good news is that policymakers have already started incentivizing carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) at point sources of emissions – like fossil fuel power plants and other industrial assets – through the 45Q tax credit . The bad news is that in its current form, 45Q is prioritizing avoiding new emissions and doing far too little to combat the carbon already in the atmosphere – the water already in the hull. To be a true launch pad for the CDR sector, 45Q needs to be expanded to include many types of innovative CDR solutions in addition to Direct Air Capture, which is already eligible. It needs to support these technologies earlier by lowering the eligibility threshold to allow them to mature faster, offering an option for direct payments (to prevent the loss of value from the tax equity market) and the sequestration loan. raise $ 180 / ton.
These changes will result in the US seeing explosive growth in the CDR sector and dramatic reductions in the cost of decarbonization. This can be accelerated further if the federal government purchases early-stage CO2 removal to manage its own residual emissions from its sprawling government buildings, transportation requirements and global footprint, as in the bipartisan infrastructure package as part of the proposal to establish a regional DAC. provided hubs. In doing so, it would also play a key role in scaling CDR by being a first-time buyer, attracting other customers and providing vital stability to CDR companies.
If we are to achieve the levels of carbon removal necessary to really make a difference on climate change, it is crucial that the federal government increase CDR incentives and use their considerable procurement power to accelerate innovation and commercialization.
The upcoming reconciliation package is a good start as climate, jobs and long-term innovation are key issues. If Congress can get these meaningful CDR guidelines in place, it will ensure that we have bigger, better, and more plentiful resources to clear water from the hull, save our ship, and keep us afloat for generations to come .