The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a robust portfolio of initiatives that are focused on significantly accelerating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. And while reducing the amount of carbon emissions entering our atmosphere is an urgent priority, removing those emissions that already exist will also play a critical role in helping the nation achieve its climate goals.
Though the concept of ‘removal’ seems rather simple in nature, it may surprise many to learn that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is a new and emerging industry. In fact, it was only last year that DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management helped to launch the FIRST DOE-wide effort in CDR—Carbon Negative Shot.
Since then, we have been working hard to bring together some of the brightest minds—from industry innovators to government leaders and climate and environmental organizations—to discuss how we can build up a CDR industry in a commercially viable, just, and sustainable way. And that is why we are so excited.
On July 20, 2022, we hosted the first-ever Carbon Negative Shot Summit. With more than 1,700 people from 39 countries in attendance, and 39 total speakers across our keynote sessions and panel discussions, the event pushed the needle forward in advancing collaboration on CDR.
You can learn more about the importance of CDR below, and if you couldn’t attend the Summit or want a quick reminder of what we covered, you can visit the Summit’s webpage to catch up. You can also watch the whole event or specific sessions here!
What is Carbon Dioxide Removal?
At a high level, CDR encompasses a wide array of approaches that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere and store it. Storage can occur in geological reservoirs, value-added products like low-carbon concrete, oceans, and natural sinks such as forests, soils, and wetlands.
Why Do We Need It?
Nearly all modeling scenarios that achieve international climate goals indicate the need for a near-term focus on gigaton-scale CDR development and deployment, bringing net emissions not just to zero, but eventually negative. In the coming decades, advancing the development of CDR approaches will help us meet our net-zero emissions targets by counterbalancing CO2 emissions from hard to decarbonize sectors (e.g., agriculture, aviation, and shipping). If we are successful in building a sustainable and just CDR industry globally, we have the additional potential to clean up legacy emissions from past human activity—after we have achieved net-zero emissions from existing electric power, transportation, industrial, and other sources across our economy.
How Does DOE’s Carbon Negative Shot Advance CDR and International Climate Goals?
Carbon Negative Shot, launched in November 2021, is DOE’s third Energy Earthshot and is an all-hands-on-deck call for innovation in CDR pathways that will capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it for less than $100/net metric ton of CO2-equivalent by 2032.
Achieving this target will enable cost-effective removal of CO2 from the atmosphere at gigaton scales. To put this into perspective, one gigaton of CO2 is roughly one fifth of the United States’ annual CO2 emissions in 2020.
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the CDR industry needs rapid, global ramp-up. By positioning U.S. enterprises as leaders in research, manufacturing, and deployment, we will work to achieve the Carbon Negative Shot goals as well as spur innovation.
What Will it Take to Ramp Up this Industry?
- Investment... Starting with First-of-a-Kind Demonstrations! The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides a significant down payment—$3.6 billion for direct air capture to remove CO2 pollution from the air and transport it to permanent storage or to locations where it can be converted into value-added products. The government is paying up to 50% of the initial capital investment thanks to the BIL. Demonstrations are important because we learn by doing, which brings down costs and makes those costs transparent, creating a lower-risk environment for additional and accelerated private-sector investment.
- Market Demand. Demonstrations can build political momentum for policy incentives (e.g., the 45Q tax credit) and voluntary corporate commitments, which collectively can create market demand for verified carbon removal activities.
- Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification Standards. Such standards are essential to guarantee performance, safety, and equity across all CDR pathways. Participants in the rapidly growing and dynamic marketplace for carbon removal services need to have confidence that the reductions they are paying for are real and permanent.
- Scaling Up Infrastructure. To scale up from the demonstration stage and create robust regional networks capable of removing gigatons of CO2 annually, we need the private sector to come in and build more carbon removal infrastructure.
- Community Engagement. For local communities to realize the full potential benefit of these projects, meaningful public engagement must be pursued that allows communities to inform and shape these projects to meet their needs.
How Can You Get Involved?
To learn more about how you can get involved in building the CDR industry, take these steps: