The Future Lies In Negative Emissions Technology
Climate scientists have for years been warning about the impacts of a greenhouse effect gone out of control. The basic premise of the warning has to do with increased CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. These emissions subsequently trap radiation attempting to leave Earth’s surface and consequently lead to a rise in the average temperature on the planet. The policy proposals have, for as long as we can remember, pushed for humans to cut the amount of greenhouse gas we release into the atmosphere. This has proven to be successful on a small scale: we have almost entirely cut CFC emissions to ensure the atmosphere’s ozone layer remains intact. But carbon dioxide emissions are an entirely different story. Simply put, we have been unable to stop businesses from emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Even if we magically do, however, the problem remains: no matter how much carbon dioxide we prevent from entering the atmosphere, the planet will continue getting warmer because the CO2 we have already emitted.
But what if there was a way to alter the course we are heading in? Indeed, there is; there is a way human technology can not only reduce emissions, but actually create negative emissions, i.e. take away CO2 that is already in the ambient air. The technology for this is more novel and experimentory than trending and ready-to-use, but with some good science and even better investments, we can get there. Negative Emissions Technology is the future — even President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress agree with that. Just about a year ago from today they passed the FUTURE Act (Furthering carbon capture, Utilization, Technology, Underground storage, and Reduced Emissions Act). The statute incentivizes business utilizing carbon-capturing technology through doubling tax credits and rewarding businesses that reuse emitted carbon for other purposes like cement, chemical manufacturing, plastics, and fuels.
But incentives are just the first step. We need to do more. The government needs to invest more capital in researching the field of carbon capturing. Scientists are investigating this technology and are trying to find geological substances that can transform carbon dioxide from a gas state to a solid one. Right now, the process is pretty pricey: research indicates that it costs between $94 and $232 to remove just one ton of CO2 from the air. However, in 2011 the American Physical Society estimated this figure to be a whopping $600 per ton. This shows that the rapid technological advances of the 21st century do offer some hope that the price tag will be even lower in just a few years.
The United States ought to do as much as it can to pounce on advancing this technology. The FUTURE Act is no longer the future; it is the past. We not only need to incentivize using the technology, we need to invest in and advance the technology itself. Through Negative Emissions Technology, the United States can lead the world in its production, thereby not only preventing global warming, but striking it rich in the process. Once an efficient technology is in place, utilizing it should not just be incentivized; it should be mandated. The implications of requiring every business to utilize Negative Emissions Technology in the United States may lead to the United Nations adopting this requirement globally. And together, humans can put a stop to the mess we created for ourselves.
Carbon Capture Coalition. “U.S. Budget Bill Includes Landmark Carbon Capture Tax Credit to Benefit Economy, Jobs and the Environment.” Carbon Capture Coalition, 15 Feb. 2018, carboncapturecoalition.org/u-s-budget-bill-includes-landmark-carbon-capture-tax-credit-to-benefit-economy-jobs-and-the-environment/.
Fellows, University of Houston Energy. “Negative Emissions Technologies: Has Their Time Arrived?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Sept. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2018/09/14/negative-emissions-technologies-has-their-time-arrived/#19aa477c116c.
The American Physical Society . “Direct Air Capture of CO2 with Chemicals.” The American Physical Society , 2011.