A low-tech method for combating climate change

An agroforest in Masaka, Uganda. September 2013. (Dan Frendin) Erik Hoffner is an editor for Mongabay, an environmental news service. He’s currently working on a series of articles on agroforestry. In June, the clean energy firm Carbon Engineering announced that it had developed a technique to remove carbon dioxide from the air by turning it into fuel. The company uses massive fans to blow air onto a chemical solution that captures carbon dioxide, which then undergoes a series of chemical reactions to transform into liquid fuel. To execute this process, Carbon Engineering estimates that it will cost roughly $100 per metric ton of carbon dioxide removed, which is relatively cheap when compared to other methods. While this is no doubt an exciting discovery, Carbon Engineering’s invention exemplifies one of the constant challenges plaguing high-tech climate change solutions: they might be cost-saving in the long run but require huge amounts of upfront investment. As environmental writer John Vidal has noted , “The Achilles’ heel of all negative emission technologies is cost.” All existing carbon removal technologies and research are expensive. The Southern Company’s carbon capturing power plant in Mississippi was forecast to cost $2.2 billion to build but is still […]

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