The First Commercial “Carbon Capture” Plant In The U.S. Has Sucked 1000 Tons Out Of The Air
by Trisha Leigh
At this point, everyone knows we need to do something about climate change and all of the carbon polluting the air. I mean, unless you’re purposefully avoiding the news, in which case, more power to you.
Thankfully, though, there are some out there actually doing the good work required to make change happen – this time in the form of “carbon capture” plants meant to reverse the process.
It should come as no surprise that this prototype plant exists in California, and though it is a step in the right direction, it is still very small in scale.
The plant is run by Heirloom Carbon Technologies and pulls carbon dioxide out of the air – up to 1000 tons per year – and stores it underground.
This equals around the same amount of carbon released by 200 cars in a year, which is nothing to sneeze at, but obviously a drop in the bucket. The company hopes to ramp up the scale by opening more plants in an effort to truly offset the damage being done every day.
Heirloom’s process is called direct air capture technology, which uses “limestone like a sponge.” Then they remove the captured carbon dioxide from the limestone, resulting in a white powder called calcium oxide.
They add water and spread the pasty mixture on metal trays exposed to the open air, absorbing more carbon dioxide before morphing back into limestone.
Then the process begins again, “like repeatedly wringing a sponge.” It’s all powered by renewable energy and Heirloom has pledged to not accept money from any oil and gas companies to keep it growing.
Carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and makes the earth warmer, resulting in things like rising sea levels, increased forest fires, and other natural disasters. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Boston Consulting Group estimate that it will cost 211 millions years of lost human lives if we continue without any mitigation.
This is why, says Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, told The New York Times that the science has been straightforward for some time.
“The science is clear: Cutting back carbon emissions through renewable energy alone won’t stop the damage from climate change. Direct air capture technology is a game-changing tool that gives us a shot at removing carbon pollution.”
That said, scientists like Peter Kalmus warn that this carbon capture process shouldn’t seem like a free pass to continue doing what we’re doing.
“Pollutive companies might promote investments in carbon capture to distract the public from the amount of fossil fuels they’re actively releasing into the air…it really does let them off the hook.”
Which is to say that factories like this one are only part of the solution, not the whole thing.
Companies that are doing harm need to figure out a way to stop, and quick, and let factories like these clean up the mess once and for all.