Climate Activists Oppose CO2 Air Capture

  • Date: 04/04/19
  • BBC News

A technology that removes carbon dioxide from the air has received significant backing from major fossil fuel companies. But climate campaigners are worried that the technology will be used to extract even more oil.

British Columbia-based Carbon Engineering has shown that it can extract CO2 in a cost-effective way.

It has now been boosted by $68m in new investment from Chevron, Occidental and coal giant BHP.

But climate campaigners are worried that the technology will be used to extract even more oil.

The quest for technology for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the air received significant scientific endorsement last year with the publication of the IPCC report on keeping the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C this century.

In their “summary for policymakers”, the scientists stated that: “All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5C with limited or no overshoot project the use of CDR …over the 21st century.”

Around the world, a number of companies are racing to develop the technology that can draw down carbon. Swiss company Climeworks is already capturing CO2 and using it to boost vegetable production.

Finally a Fischer-Tropsch process turns this gas into a synthetic crude oil. Carbon Engineering says the liquid can be used in a variety of engines without modification.

“The fuel that we make has no sulphur in it, it has these nice linear chains which means it burns cleaner than traditional fuel,” said Dr McCahill. …

“It’s nice and clear and ready to be used in a truck, car or jet.”

Direct air capture
Carbon Engineering’s direct air capture plant

How have environmentalists reacted to Carbon Engineering’s plans?

Some climate campaigners are positive about the development of direct air capture technology, but others are worried that it will be used to prolong the fossil fuel era.

“It’s a huge concern,” Tzeporah Berman, international programme director for Stand dot earth, told BBC News.

“We need to be working together to figure out how we move away completely from fossil fuel – that’s our moral and economic challenge but these technologies provide a false hope that we can continue to depend on fossil fuels and produce and burn them, and technology will fix it – we are way past that point!”

Others are concerned that the development of direct air capture devices may just encourage some people to think that they don’t have to personally reduce their carbon footprint.

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