The US Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced its intentions to invest $3.5 billion of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in carbon removal projects across the country.
In doing so, the DOE hopes to kickstart an industry that in the opinion of energy experts is key to curbing the nation’s CO2 emissions and mitigating the climate crisis.
The technology that the funds will go towards is known as direct air capture or DAC and is designed to remove carbon dioxide that is already present in the air.
This, coupled with carbon capture tech that is used to prevent more emissions from entering the atmosphere, is the only way climate specialists believe the world can put a stop to global warming.
In most DAC systems, CO2 is pulled from the air with the help of giant vacuum cleaner-like plants and chemicals that separate the carbon dioxide from the other atmospheric gasses, after which it is either permanently locked away underground or utilized to make valuable products, such as fuels, textiles and more.
On Thursday, the DOE released a notice of intent for four developers of DAC hubs, each of which has a carbon removal capacity of over 1 million tons of carbon emissions per year.
The envisioned hubs are expected to be larger than what is currently the world’s largest DAC plant, known as Orca, located in Iceland and operated by carbon removal expert Climeworks.
Right now, Orca removes 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air every day, which is what 500 trees can absorb over the course of a year.
The $3.5 billion DOE investment is a major improvement on the $11 million annual government spending on carbon removal up to 2018.