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Elon Musk pledges $100m to fund carbon capture contest

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched a carbon capture competition to faster cut back on global emissions, and the most impressive invention will receive a $50m cash prize.

We all talk a big game on Twitter, but Elon Musk is one to regularly follow up on his midnight musings.

Looking to put his $203bn fortune to good use, Elon Musk is creating a competition that will see contestants develop innovative technologies capable of pulling harmful emissions directly from the atmosphere – a process called ‘carbon capture.’

Announcing the competition this week under the guise of his X Prize charity, which focuses on technological inventions for the good of humanity, Musk is already in the process of selecting the 15 teams to take part and drawing up competition guidelines to be published in April.

These teams will be diverse and hail from different parts of the globe, each receiving a $1m grant from the man himself to get their ideas off the ground. The initiative is expected to stretch over the next four years or so, and will mandate that those taking part find ways of scaling current emissions back ‘on a gigaton level.’ This is the very definition of ‘go big or go home.’

Musk’s $100m pledge represents the charity’s biggest outlay by some way since its conception in 2002, and will see the winners receive $50m outright, the runners up $20m, and the third placed outfit $10m. According to the charity, the awards on offer amount to the ‘largest incentive prize in history,’ because who can compete with Musk when it comes to bank balance – aside from arch rival Bezos?

As we previously touched on, the guidelines aren’t yet established, but the tech tycoon will expect the winning invention to remove up to one US ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or ocean per day and to demonstrate the potential of removing gigatons (billions of tons) of emissions in the future. As he frequently states, when it comes to climate change solutions ‘time is of the essence.’

Forever optimistic, the Tesla and Space X CEO isn’t just striving for carbon neutrality either, and instead wishes to push for climate negativity. Essentially, Musk sees goals of reaching net zero by 2030 as a tad unambitious, and instead wants to find ways of removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we even emit. It’s bold, we’ll give him that.

As we’ve previously discussed on Thred, carbon capture initiatives continues to be a contentious subject in sustainable solutions circles. Experts often point to the concept as being a costly distraction from stopping emissions from occurring in the first place, and a potential copout for companies adverse to adopting greener practices.

However, the International Energy Agency has produced reports suggesting that carbon capture will have to become an imperative part of our climate reduction efforts going forward, if we’re to minimise the impact of emissions from factories, power plants, transportation and other sources. The government cohort has even gone as far to declare 2030 goals ‘virtually impossible’ to reach by adopting renewable energies alone.

I don’t know about you, but so long as these carbon capture solutions are capable of storing emissions in a benign manner, I’m more than okay with cutting the odd corner for the good of the planet.


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