The heat is on in much of the U.S. this week, with around 65 million people under some form of heat advisory. The above-average temperatures reinforce the need to combat climate change, but also should remind policy makers that we must focus on all tools in the fight to lower temperatures. After all, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. body that tracks climate change, says that simply cutting emissions is no longer enough to limit the climate damage. We must also remove carbon dioxide from the air.
The answer? Carbon capture, utilization, and storage or CCUS technologies. CCUS captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel power plants and either reuses it or stores it permanently underground so it will not reenter the atmosphere. Energy Fairness has always enthusiastically supported CCUS, maintaining that this undervalued technology is crucial for fighting climate change while keeping our electricity supplies reliable. Fortunately, CCUS has made great advancements in recent years.
For instance, in 2021, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation to modernize tax credits for CCUS projects. That’s impressive, considering that Congress doesn’t seem to agree on much these days. Additionally, the Department of Energy recently announced $3.5 billion in new funding for groups developing CCUS and other technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Several big-name tech companies are getting into the CCUS game as well. Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Microsoft pledged $500 million to new technologies designed to capture carbon. Billionaire tech magnate Elon Musk even offers a cash prize for new direct air capture technologies. Global funding for CCS was up more than 400% last year to over $1.44 billion.
Pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere isn’t the only benefit of CCUS. There’s also enormous potential for turning the captured carbon into everyday products such as plastics. Last year, the Alabama-based National Carbon Capture Center successfully tested technology that stored carbon dioxide in concrete blocks. Applying this technology to manufacture concrete will reduce the industry’s carbon footprint by over 80% with no compromise on price, product performance or operations.
“Advancing novel technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of essential products like concrete is critical in achieving economy-wide decarbonization and is a growing focus of our work for the U.S. Department of Energy,” says John Northington, National Carbon Capture Center director and director of net-zero technologies for Southern Company research and development.
Cutting emissions is crucial. So is keeping our lights on and our air conditioners running as the mercury rises throughout the summer months. Fortunately, the increased interest in CCUS is a solution to both problems. We’re thrilled that this critical technology is finally getting the attention it deserves.