Published 2 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: A DAC hub sample blueprint | Dept of Energy
Many see DAC as a necessary, if imperfect, tool for
achieving needed carbon reductions; but climate justice groups oppose anything that perpetuates petrochemical operation, which often disproportionately harms communities where they are built.
As part of the Biden administration's Investing in America
agenda, the US
Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced up to $1.2 billion in
funding for two direct air capture (DAC)
in Louisiana and Texas. The two regional DAC hub projects — South Texas
DAC Hub and Project
Cypress — will include infrastructure
necessary to capture, process and permanently store carbon dioxide underground.
Once running, the hubs are expected to collectively remove over two million
metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year — the equivalent of
taking nearly half a million cars off the road — and to create over 5,000 jobs.
“These hubs are going to prove out the potential of this game-changing
technology, so that others can follow in our footsteps,” said Secretary of
Energy Jennifer Granholm, in a press
briefing made available to Sustainable Brands®. “If you deploy this at
scale, this technology can help make serious headway toward our net-zero
emissions goals while we are still focused on [deploying] more clean energy at
the same time.”
DAC is a process that separates CO2 directly from the air. Captured CO2 can be
used to make a growing range of products — from cleaning
— or pumped deep underground for permanent storage. Still in its infancy, the
DAC industry will require massive funding to prove market viability and scale as
an effective climate solution.
Investing in America earmarks $3.5 billion for creating four regional DAC hubs
aimed at kickstarting a nationwide network of commercial-scale carbon-removal
projects. Project Cypress, in Calcasieu Parish, LA, will be operated by
nonprofit science and technology company Battelle
in coordination with Heirloom Carbon Technologies and Zurich-based Climeworks
Corporation. The South Texas DAC Hub (Kleberg
County, TX) will be developed by a subsidiary
of US oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum.
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The investment in these and other carbon-management projects is part of the
larger Investing in America agenda — the Biden administration's economic
strategy aimed at rebuilding a low carbon economy from the bottom-up and
middle-out, not the top down. The funding was made available through the
which invests billions in infrastructure improvements and climate-resiliency
Most experts agree that DAC is a necessary tool in mitigating the worst effects
of climate change. However, it’s no
DAC requires large amounts of energy to operate, and is less effective in
mitigating climate change than real emissions reductions and other nature-based
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D)
investments in his state, citing Louisiana as a prime candidate for developing
zero-carbon technologies to remove industrial carbon pollution from the air.
Louisiana, incidentally, is home to some of the most congested petrochemical
buildout in the world, known colloquially as “Cancer
Gov Edwards stated he hopes DAC will play a role in mitigating emissions from
the state’s massive petrochemical sector.
But groups including the Climate Justice
Alliance (CJA) oppose the buildout of
any infrastructure that could serve to perpetuate further petrochemical
operation, which often disproportionately harms communities where they are
A joint statement released by CJA’s Marion
Gee and Basav
Sen, Climate Justice Policy
Director at the Institute for Policy Studies, decried the
“Direct air capture allows polluting industries to live on when we should be
focusing on a just transition to
Gee wrote. “In an effort to move quickly and carelessly to balance a ‘carbon
budget,’ the backyards that he’s talking about building in … [will] be Black
folks, Indigenous communities and poor BIPOC neighbors — sacrificed, yet again
in the name of protecting corporate interests."
CJA argues DAC is a red herring pushed by the fossil fuel industry and its
political backers designed to distract from the real solution — phasing out
“Anything else is just smoke and mirrors,” Sen asserted. “The Biden
administration should stop their cynical political game of squandering public
funds on unproven, expensive and potentially dangerous schemes such as direct
air capture — purportedly to gain credibility for backing climate solutions,
while doubling down on expanding fossil fuels."
Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations Deputy Director Kelly
that neither of the hubs will use captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery — a
significant departure from current carbon-management practices. Cummins said
community and stakeholder engagement represented 20 percent of the
decision-making process to go ahead with these plants; and a mandatory community
development fund has been established to help meet the administration’s goal of
40 percent of clean energy investments going to underserved communities most
impacted by climate change.
Battelle will purchase clean power offsets for Project Cypress, though Batelle
President and CEO Lou Von
Thaer admitted in the press briefing that the
focus of the project is technology demonstration. Occidental President and CEO
the Texas project will be powered directly by solar.
When asked during the briefing if the hubs will sell carbon
Cummins replied: “What we’re really focused on for these DAC hub projects is
making sure that the technology can scale at the commercial level … We want to
make sure that these companies and these projects are financially viable in the
long term, so we are not restricting revenue sources.”
DOE hopes these moves will further scale what it calls “responsible carbon
management” across the US. In addition to funding four carbon-removal hubs, DOE
will fund early-stage efforts to explore the feasibility of an additional 19 DAC
hub projects; though these projects may not receive DOE funding nor even break
DOE expects solicitation for additional hubs in 2024.
Published Sep 11, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.