Climate Change

EXCLUSIVE: BC Firm Lobbying Washington On Proposed Efforts to Suck Carbon Directly From The Atmosphere

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering one of only three companies around the world with the technology to directly extract carbon dioxide from the air

By Sean Craig
May 13, 2020
Climate Change

EXCLUSIVE: BC Firm Lobbying Washington On Proposed Efforts to Suck Carbon Directly From The Atmosphere

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering one of only three companies around the world with the technology to directly extract carbon dioxide from the air

By Sean Craig
May 13, 2020
Rendering of a Carbon Engineering facility that would annually extract up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide direct from the atmosphere. The Squamish-based company is now lobbying Washington for measures that could more easily spur the construction of such facilities across the United States (Carbon Engineering).
Climate Change

EXCLUSIVE: BC Firm Lobbying Washington On Proposed Efforts to Suck Carbon Directly From The Atmosphere

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering one of only three companies around the world with the technology to directly extract carbon dioxide from the air

By Sean Craig
May 13, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: BC Firm Lobbying Washington On Proposed Efforts to Suck Carbon Directly From The Atmosphere
Rendering of a Carbon Engineering facility that would annually extract up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide direct from the atmosphere. The Squamish-based company is now lobbying Washington for measures that could more easily spur the construction of such facilities across the United States (Carbon Engineering).

A B.C. carbon capture firm has tapped a U.S. lobbying firm to build congressional support for fighting climate change by pulling CO2 emissions right out of the air.

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering (CE) paid about $30,000 in the first three months of 2020 to AJW, Inc., a firm that specializes in energy and environmental government relations, to meet with U.S officials in order to push carbon capture legislation, according to congressional records. 

U.S. lawmakers are currently considering a handful of bills that could bolster investor appetite for the technology. They are at the centre of an emerging bipartisan approach to climate change legislation that relies on market incentives rather than spending, meaning the bills have a better chance of passing both houses of congress. (For example, the big spending, Democrat-backed Green New Deal was last year rejected by the Republican-led Senate).

One bill which is the focus of AJW’s lobbying, the Carbon Capture Improvement Act of 2019, would allow local or state governments to issue tax-exempt bonds in order to build carbon capture projects.

It was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet and cosponsored by his Republican colleague, Rob Portman of Ohio. House Republican Tim Burchett of Tennessee introduced the bill in the lower chamber, arguing it “allows the free market, rather than the government, to determine innovative ways to go green.”


“Frankly, fostering and cultivating the bipartisan appetite that exists for carbon capture right now in the United States is helpful," said Geoff Holmes, the head of regulatory engagement at CE, in an interview. “And so in order to drive investments into facilities that can remove CO2 from the air, we need revenue and we need a conducive market environment.”

CE is already working on getting facilities up and running in the U.S. It is currently partnered with Texas-based Occidental Petroleum on building the world's largest direct air-capture plant, which will extract one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

The company’s Direct Air Capture technology, which is used at its Squamish facility and will be used at the Texas plant, pulls air directly from the atmosphere; the air then passes over surfaces with a potassium hydroxide solution that binds with CO2 molecules, trapping them in its liquid in the form of carbonate salt. The CO2 in the carbonate is then concentrated and compressed so it can be used as renewable fuel or stored.

CE is one of only three companies in the world building machines capable of these chemical processes, but further research and development of the technology also has bipartisan backing in the U.S. Congress.

The USE IT Act, sponsored in the Senate by Wyoming Republican John Barrasso and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to support carbon capture research, and introduce a host of measures to support carbon capture project developers. It would also expand a tax credit passed in 2018 to incentivize carbon capture projects.


“Our interest is in recognizing that there's a harm to having excess CO2 in the atmosphere, and that there should be approaches to avoid putting more of it there, and a value to removing the excess that's already there,” added Holmes.

If passed, bills opening the door to more carbon capture investment have the potential to expedite growth in an already ascendant industry.

Earlier this year, financial research firm Global Market Insights predicted the carbon capture and storage market would grow to $6 billion by 2026, almost doubling in value from 2019. The U.S. — the world’s second largest emitter — is also in one of the regions that dominates the carbon capture market. North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific accounted for over 90 per cent of the global carbon capture and storage market share last year.

CE’s potential in a that growing market has attracted heavy hitting investors including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Canadian oil sands financier Murray Edwards and Chevron. Last year, CE raised US$68 million in an equity financing round.

CE also has a presence on Vancouver Island, as a member of the $1.5 million Solid Carbon project at the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. That project is developing an ocean-based negative emission technology that would turn captured greenhouse gases into rock by injecting it under the ocean floor.

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