Capturing carbon from the air to help solve the climate crisis

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

I loved my conversation with Marc Gunther this week. We focused most of the discussion on his new e-book, Suck it Up, that covers the issue of climate change, geoengineering, and direct air capture of Co2. This book was a wonderful read and -- at only 49 pages long -- an easy read.

In Suck it Up, Marc was able to go into great detail about these important topics and the activity that is brewing around them in a format that is longer than a magazine article and shorter than a book. It’s the new e-book (Kindle Single) model and very smart one in my opinion. And it only costs $1.99 -- perfect for someone who wants to learn more about a topic but not necessarily invest $15-$20 to do so. It’s also the same price as my large coffee that I just purchased prior to sitting down to write this. Always good to put things into context.

Marc and I delved right into the book and discussed important issues surrounding climate change, why nothing is being done about it, and this extremely interesting 10- to 15-year-old idea of “simply” sucking the Co2 right out of the air and ultimately selling it.

The debate on climate change is exhausting for many of us. That said, whether or not you believe in it, here are the facts: Burning fossil fuels puts Co2 in the atmosphere. Ninety-eight percent is caused by man. This causes greenhouse effect. There is no debate about that. The debate is centered upon what this means to climate/weather. There is some uncertainty, yes, but, as Marc puts it, this is no reason to simply do nothing and wait around.

So a few companies started by reknown scientists and backed by successful businessmen aren’t waiting around. Simply put, they are building big machines and sucking Co2 out of the air. Sound science fiction? Certainly. But it’s happening.Marc Gunther

Three, in particular, are worth noting. Kilimanjaro Energy (Claus Lackner and Gary Comer), Global Thermostat Peter Eisenberger and Graciela Chichlinisky and Edgar Bronfman, Jr.) and Carbon Engineering (David Keith and Bill Gates and Jabe Blumenthal). All covered in the book, they are out there figuring out a way to clean up the mess that comes from burning Co2. Carbon Engineering also has a great video on its site worth a look.

What’s also great about Marc’s book is his discussion of the market for Co2. Sure, Coca-Cola and Pepsi need fizz for their products but there is also an ironic opportunity for the oil industry to take Co2 from the air turn it into liquid and put it into the ground to extract oil to create a lower carbon fuel. The market? One is the airline industry.

And how about this? The pot of gold Marc explains here is the idea of taking Co2 out of air, separating hydrogen and oxygen in the water (a component of Co2), and combining the carbon with hydrogen to make synthetic hydrocarbon. This creates fuels sans natural gas or anything. Hypothetically, any country in possession of one of these machines, sunshine, and water can in effect become a producer of oil and transportation fuels. It may seem like a radical idea today but in 50 -100 years from now it is certainly possible not to mention tremendously exciting. Think about it! Importing oil from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela would be obsolete and countries like Costa Rica and Belgium could become oil producers. (Of course, this all only makes sense if powered by alternative energy.) It’s certainly fun to think about.

I agree with Marc in his notion that we are not going to deal with climate until we have a Pearl Harbor of climate change -- when the whole country and the whole world are moved to act. This is why it is exciting and gives you hope that there are smart people out there figuring out alternative ways to deal with the impending crisis. For Marc, these companies provide a glimmer of hope. I know that I hope I am still alive when we have arrived at a carbon negative economy. It’s going to be a great day thanks to the pioneers who refuse to wait around and are building companies as well as the pioneers like Marc who have the foresight and curiosity to write about these exciting innovations.

Pick up the book for sure and read on.