Elon Musk says he will donate $100 million to whoever invents the best carbon capture technology

Energy

GRUENHEIDE, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 03: Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany. Musk is currently in Germany where he met with vaccine maker CureVac on Tuesday, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines, as well as German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier yesterday.

Maja Hitij | Getty Images

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced that he is donating $100 million towards a prize for the best technology that can capture carbon dioxide.

Musk, who overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the world’s richest person this month, made the announcement on Twitter late Thursday, saying he would share more details next week.

“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk tweeted to his 42.7 million followers.

Carbon capture is the process of trapping waste carbon dioxide either directly from the air, or just before it gets emitted from factories and power plants.

With the latter, the first step is often to install solvent filters on factory chimneys, which catch the carbon emissions before they’re released into the Earth’s atmosphere. Once captured, carbon dioxide can then be shipped or piped somewhere it can’t escape from (often deep underground) to prevent it contributing to global warming.

Most of the captured carbon dioxide remains underground, but some of it can also used to make plastics and fizzy drinks.

Why is carbon capture needed?

Global carbon dioxide emissions have soared over the last 100 years, leading to unprecedented global warming and climate change.

There are currently around 20 carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) projects operating commercially worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency.

The agency said that 30 new projects had been agreed since 2017, but stressed that many more were needed to prevent carbon emissions from raising the temperature on Earth by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The IEA believes CCUS projects could reduce carbon emissions by almost a fifth, while also slashing the cost of tackling the climate crisis by 70%. Adapting heavy industry to run on clean energy is relatively difficult and expensive compared to installing carbon capture systems.

U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to put more of a focus on cutting emissions than his predecessor and said he wants the U.S. to be carbon neutral by 2050.

‘Plant more trees’

The prize that Musk has said he will contribute to is connected to the Xprize Foundation, TechCrunch reported, citing an anonymous source. The foundation is a nonprofit that puts on competitions to promote and support innovation.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, Musk has a total net worth of $201 billion, while Bezos has $193 billion. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the next wealthiest person, with a total net worth of $134 billion.

Musk recently asked his Twitter followers what he should do with his money.

“Critical feedback is always super appreciated, as well as ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems),” he tweeted Jan. 8.

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