Back in May, Swiss start-up Climeworks unveiled a massive machine that sucks carbon dioxide out of the sky.
Photo by Julia Dunlop/Climeworks.
The idea? To not just slow climate change, but reverse it.
The devise traps carbon dioxide, CO2, on a plastic sheet covered with amines — chemicals that absorb the gas.
Once stripped from the atmosphere, however, the lassoed carbon doesn't just go away. The company was faced with a challenge: where to store the planet-warming emissions so they don't escape and continue to slowly cook us all.
Months later, thousands of miles away, in a town in the southwestern corner of Iceland, Climeworks may have found its solution — one nearly as old as the Earth itself.
Bingo. Photo by Sandra O. Snaebjornsdottir.
Climeworks has begun burying the carbon it traps 700 meters underground, where it naturally combines with the island nation's indigenous volcanic rock.
"Our plan is to offer carbon removal to individuals, corporates and organizations as a means to reverse their non-avoidable carbon emissions," Christoph Gebald, founder and CEO of Climeworks, said in a news release.
The carbon-burying, rock-injecting technology was developed by CarbFix, a research project led by Reykjavik Energy to develop novel, sustainable storage methods for the gas.
The project is backed by the EU and is currently in testing to evaluate how weather impacts the process.
Photo by Climeworks.
The module is attached to a local geothermal power plant to capture ambient CO2 produced by the energy generating facility.
The United States of America, meanwhile, is kicking a somewhat ... different plan into gear.
The plan involves yanking as many rocks as possible out of the ground to put their carbon back into the sky.
On Oct. 9, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced the Trump administration's decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which requires energy generating plants to cut emissions back to 2005 levels in the next 13 years. A recent Energy Department proposal aims to subsidize coal-fired plants at the expense of cleaner alternatives.
It remains to be seen whether Climeworks' technology can be scaled up to a difference-making degree.
Sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky turns out to be pretty expensive. The initial pilot program sold its trapped carbon to a local greenhouse, a model which may or may not be reproducible globally.
But trying to find a solution is better than trying to create more problems.
Photo by Climeworks/Zev Starr-Tambor.
The next step, according to Gebald, is to bring the technology to "numerous other regions which have similar rock formations."
Perhaps these 21st century carbon bounty hunters may be interested in checking out some of our sweet basalt action?
Asking for a friend.