A new $1.2 billion investment by the US government in two large-scale facilities could help jumpstart the technology. While various nature-based solutions exist, including reforestation and locking up carbon in soil, direct air capture technology that pulls CO2 out of the air could be a crucial tool. The technology is in its infancy though and currently costs a huge amount of money to remove very little carbon from the atmosphere.
The hope is that building facilities at a much larger scale than shown in previous demonstrations will help prove the feasibility of the technology and cut costs.
The Louisiana project is a collaboration between non-profit technology company Batelle and DAC technology providers Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies, while the Texas plant will be built by Occidental Petroleum using technology from Carbon Engineering.
Some experts have praised the investment as crucial for kick-starting commercialization of an important climate technology, but others have suggested the money could be better spent on other carbon reduction efforts.
A biogeochemist at Cornell University, told Science that the low concentration of CO2 in the air means the physics of removing it is fundamentally challenging and doubts it will see the same rapid improvements as other climate technologies like solar panels.
Another concern is that the promise of the technology could act as an excuse for fossil fuel companies to continue extraction for decades to come, Jonathan Foley, executive director of climate group Project Drawdown, told the Associated Press.
The United Kingdom recently announced £20 billion in funding over the next two decades for carbon capture storage, which focuses on removing CO2 from industrial emissions, though the funding could also go towards DAC. The European Union has also recently announced plans to produce a carbon capture strategy with the hope of storing 50 million tons of CO2 by 2030.
While it’s still too early to say how much of an impact the technology could have on the climate challenge, it seems likely we will find out soon.