Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, is spurring on innovation by offering a 100 million dollar prize in a carbon removal research competition. This competition will be conducted by the XPRIZE Foundation.
And yes, that is the largest prize for any XPRIZE competition by over a factor of 6.
To meet the Paris Agreement’s goals, the science is clear, we will need gigaton-scale carbon removal. And we will need to be able to handle 10 gigatonnes of net CO2 removal per year by 2050.
However, the technology is not on pace to reach that necessity, but Elon Musk hopes to change that.
What Is Carbon Removal?
Carbon removal is the process of extracting carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere. The technology already exists to a certain capacity but is far too expensive to use on a large scale.
Instead, the best way to remove carbon from the atmosphere is to plant more trees, but even that has its limit.
Even if the world was to achieve net-zero emissions overnight, it would not be enough. In reality, there is already too much carbon in our atmosphere. According to NASA, the concentration of carbon dioxide is at 412 parts per million (ppm).
For reference, in the preindustrial age, the carbon concentration level was at 280 ppm.
What is XPRIZE?
XPRIZE is a non-profit organization that hops to spur on innovation by hosting competitions that produce technology for the benefit of humanity.
The first XPRIZE, the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight, was a resounding success that saw multiple major breakthroughs and has paved the way for future competitions including the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XPRIZE.
However, this competition is by far the most important and largest one so far.
How Will the Competition Operate?
The competition will run for four years, and any carbon-negative solution will be eligible. However, there are certain requirements that the project must fulfill to win:
- Demonstrate CO2 removal at the 1000 tonne per year scale
- Model costs at the million ton per year (megatonne) scale
- Present a plan to sustainably reach gigatonne per year scale in the future
Now, when most people hear the term, “$100 million prize,” they assume that one team will take it home. However, that’s not the case. In reality, the prize will be distributed among the best solutions.
After the first year of the competition, judges will award 15 Milestone prizes, which are all worth 1 million dollars. Although, they may have a specific condition attached to them.
At the end of the four years, the grand prize winner will receive $50 million, and $30 million will be divided amongst the runner ups.
Elon Musk Is Willing to Provide More Funding
The point is to find a solution that works and is economically viable. And if more money is necessary, he is willing to fund it.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.