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Main article: Natural gas

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 13

Pachama launches to support global reforestation through carbon markets

00:20 | 4 January

The world’s forests are ablaze, under threat from illegal logging, and disappearing due to the less dramatic environmental degradation wrought by drought and other signs of climate change.

It’s part of the negative feedback loop that seems to be accelerating climate change as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, but one startup company is trying to facilitate reforestation by supporting carbon offsets that specifically target the world’s flora.

Pachama has raised $4.1 million to create a marketplace where companies can support carbon offset projects. The company is backed by some big names in tech investment like former Uber executive Ryan Graves, through his private investment firm, Saltwater, and Chris Sacca, a prominent early investor in Uber, through his Lowercase Capital firm.

Founded by Diego Saez Gil, a serial entrepreneur whose last company was a startup selling a “smart-suitcase”, Pachama is aiming to bring reforestation projects to the carbon markets whose impacts can be independently verified by the company’s monitoring software to ensure their ability to offset emissions.

“We were making a smart connected suitcase which got banned,” says Saez-Gil. “After that I decided to take some time off and I was quite burnt out. I wanted to do some soul searching and tried to decide what i wanted to put my efforts.” 

He traveled to South America and did a trip through Amazon rainforest in Peru. It was there that Saez-Gil saw the effects of deforestation in an area that represents a huge carbon dioxide offset for the planet.

“There are about 1 billion hectares on the planet that could be reforested,” says Saez Gil.

That opportunity — to contribute to the perpetuation of independently validated carbon markets around the world is what convinced investors like Paul Graham, Justin Kan and Daniel Kan, Gustaf Alströmer, Peter Reinhardt, Jason Jacobs, Chris Sacca from Lowercase Capital, as well as funds such as Social+Capital, Global Founders Capital, and Atomico to contribute to the company’s $4.1 million funding.

It’s a pretty big consortium to finance what amounts to a small capital commitment (given the size of the funds under management that these investors have at their disposal), but investors are right to be a little wary.

Carbon markets are driven by policy and policymakers have been reluctant to draft legislation that would put a high enough price on carbon emissions to make those markets viable.

“Pachama’s carbon credit marketplace is launching at a pivotal moment when awareness of the climate crisis is reaching an all-time high, and businesses are increasingly looking to become carbon neutral,” said Ryan Graves, Pachama’s lead investor and new director said in a statement. “What attracted me to Pachama was the company’s use of technology to bring trust to an industry that desperately needs it, and gives the verifiable results to the purchasers of carbon credits.”

Awareness doesn’t equal political action however, and Pachama needs the political will of both governments and consumers to move the needle on creating viable carbon trading markets.

Pachama’s business becomes profitable only when the price of carbon moves beyond $15 per-ton of carbon dioxide (or similar emissions) offset. Currently, there are only two markets in the world where that threshold has been reached — the California market and Europe, according to Saez-Gil.

For Pachama’s founder, forest preservation and reforestation projects can have outsized benefits. “There are only 500 forest projects that are certified today… we need tens of thousands,” says Saez-Gil. “There are one billion hectares on the planet is available for reforestation without competing with agriculture.”

The restoration of native forests can contribute to replenishing global biodiversity and captures more carbon than cultivating forests for industrial use, but both are better than destruction to grow row crops or support animal husbandry, Saez-Gil says.  

Pachama sources projects that are approved by existing certification bodies, but offers its customers monitoring and management services through access to satellite imagery and sensors that provide information on emissions and carbon capture on reforested land.

It’s a potential solution to the problem of deforestation that’s plaguing countries like Brazil. “The government in Brazil they want to generate income for the country,” says Saez-Gil. If carbon markets paid as much as ranching, it would reduce the need for animal husbandry and plantation farming in Brazil, Indonesia, or place like Peru. 

Today, most investments in reforestation projects are done through middlemen, which increases opacity and the chance that projects are being double-counted or sold, according to Saez-Gil. Pachama has a person who is contacting forest project developers so that they can list the projects independently. Then the company verifies the offsets with satellite imaging systems.

The company currently has 23 forest projects — three in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Peru and projects in the U.S. in California, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine .

Saez-Gil has high hopes for the future of carbon markets based on demand coming, in part, from new regulations like those imposed on the airline industry.

“Airlines will have to offset part of their emissions as part of CORSIA,”  says Saez-il. That’s an offset of 160 million tons of emission per year. “There is all this demand coming for different offsets for different  markets that will make the price go up.”

 


0

Carbon dioxide emissions are set to hit a record high this year (it’s not fine, but not hopeless)

06:21 | 4 December

Carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main contributors to the climate changes bringing extreme weather, rising oceans, and more frequent fires that have killed hundreds of Americans and cost the U.S. billions of dollars, are set to reach another record high in 2019.

That’s the word from the Global Carbon Project, an initiative of researchers around the world led by Stanford University scientist Rob Jackson.

The new projections from the Global Carbon Project are set out in a trio of papers published in “Earth System Science Data“, “Environmental Research Letters“, and “Nature Climate Change“.

That’s the bad news. The good news (if you want to take a glass half-full view) is that the rate of growth has slowed dramatically from the previous two years. However, researchers are warning that emissions could keep increasing for another decade unless nations around the globe take dramatic action to change their approach to energy, transportation and industry, according to a statement from Jackson.

“When the good news is that emissions growth is slower than last year, we need help,” said Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), in a statement. “When will emissions start to drop?”

Globally, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources (which are over 90 percent of all emissions) are expected to grow 0.6 percent over the 2018 emissions. In 2018 that figure was 2.1 percent above the 2017 figure, which was, itself, a 1.5 percent increase over 2016 emissions figures.

Even as the use of coal is in drastic decline around the world, natural gas and oil use is climbing, according to researchers, and stubbornly high per capita emissions in affluent countries mean that reductions won’t be enough to offset the emissions from developing countries as they turn to natural gas and gasoline for their energy and transportation needs.

“Emissions cuts in wealthier nations must outpace increases in poorer countries where access to energy is still needed,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, a mathematics professor at the University of Exeter and lead author of the Global Carbon Budget paper in Earth System Science Data, in a statement.

Some countries are making progress. Both the UK and Denmark have managed to achieve economic growth while simultaneously reducing their carbon emissions. In the third quarter of the year, renewable power supplied more energy to homes and businesses in the United Kingdom than fossil fuels for the first time in the nation’s history, according to a report cited by “The Economist”.

Costs of wind and solar power are declining so dramatically that they are cost competitive with natural gas in many parts of the wealthy world and cheaper than coal, according to a study earlier in the year from the International Monetary Fund.

Still, the U.S., the European Union and China account for more than half of all carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. did decrease year-on-year — projected to decline by 1.7 percent — but it’s not enough to counteract the rising demand from countries like China, where carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise by 2.6 percent.

And the U.S. has yet to find a way to wean itself off of its addiction to cheap gasoline and big cars. It hasn’t helped that the country is throwing out emissions requirements for passenger vehicles that would have helped to reduce its contribution to climate change even further. Even so, at current ownership rates, there’s a need to radically reinvent transportation given what U.S. car ownership rates mean for the world.

U.S. oil consumption per person is 16 times greater than in India and six times greater than in China, according to the reports. And the United States has roughly one car per-person while those numbers are roughly one for every 40 people in India and one for every 6 in China. If ownership rates in either country were to rise to similar levels as the U.S. that would put 1 billion cars on the road in either country.

About 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions were attributable to coal use, 34 percent from oil, 20 percent from natural gas, and the remaining 6 percent from cement production and other sources, according to a Stanford University statement on the Global Carbon Project report.

“Declining coal use in the U.S. and Europe is reducing emissions, creating jobs and saving lives through cleaner air,” said Jackson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, in a statement. “More consumers are demanding cheaper alternatives such as solar and wind power.”

There’s hope that a combination of policy, technology and changing social habits can still work to reverse course. The adoption of new low-emission vehicles, the development of new energy storage technologies, continued advancements in energy efficiency, and renewable power generation in a variety of new applications holds some promise. As does the social adoption of alternatives to emissions intensive animal farming and crop cultivation.

“We need every arrow in our climate quiver,” Jackson said, in a statement. “That means stricter fuel efficiency standards, stronger policy incentives for renewables, even dietary changes and carbon capture and storage technologies.”

 

 


0

Weber’s new SmokeFire pellet grill uses June technology for smart cooking

19:28 | 18 November

BBQ legend Weber is getting into the connected cooking game with their new SmokeFire grill, which uses wood pellets for fuel and which incorporates technology developed by Weber in partnership with appliance startup June for WiFi-enabled smart cooking.

The SmartFire grill, which will be available for pre-order in the U.S. starting on Cyber Monday and which will star shipping early next year, is a first in more ways than one for Weber. Yes, it packs in connected smart cooking – but it’s also the first time Weber has made a pellet grill, a style of outdoor cooker popularized by Traegar, and useful for both low and slow smoking, as well as high-heat grilling like a more traditional coal, natural gas or propane BBQ.

Weber may not have a history of building pellet grills, but it does have a very strong reputation when it comes to outdoor cooking appliances. The business introduced its iconic Kettle Grill back in 1952, and consistency racks up top marks for its range of BBQs, known for their even, consistent temperatures and long-term durability.

[gallery ids="1913242,1913241,1913240,1913235,1913239,1913238,1913237,1913236"]

This legacy cooking industry heavyweight apparently decided to partner with June once word of the startup’s own Smart Oven started circulating around the office. June and Weber teamed up to test thousands of recipes in the development of the Weber Connect smart grilling software, which provides step-by-step directions ranging from prep through the entire cook, as well as a an ETA on whatever you’ve got on the grill, delivered to and controlled from your smartphone.

The SmartFire comes in two different sizes, with 24″ and 36″ grilling surfaces respectively, for $999 and $1,199 respectively. The design looks like what you’d expect from a pellet grill – with the interesting choice of locating the hopper wherein you feed said pellets to the back of a small prep shelf on the right side of the grill. If you’re new to pellet grills, they feed these processed wood pellets, which produce great smoke but very little ash because of their high-efficiency burn, in a controlled manner that keeps temperature inside the grill consistent where you set it.

Low and slow is a great way to grill, and having intelligent cooking features to guide you along the way should help alleviate rookie mistakes like over and undercooking. Plus, it’s just exciting to imagine what Weber can do withs its first pellet grill.

 


0

Amazon’s “climate pledge” commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and 100% renewables by 2030

19:30 | 19 September

In Washington today, Amazon announced a series of initiatives and issued call for companies to reduce their carbon emissions ten years ahead of the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement as part of sweeping effort to reduce its own environmental footprint.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive, in a statement. “If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can.”

Bezos’ statement comes as employees at his own company and others across the tech industry plan for a walkout on Friday to protest inaction on climate change from their employers.

Amazon’s initiatives include an order for 100,000 delivery vehicles to Rivian, a company in which Amazon has previously invested $440 million.

Electric vans will appear on roads by 2021 and Amazon expects to have 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road by 2022 and 100,000 by 2030. The fleet is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 4 million metric tons per year by 2030, the company said.

In addition, Amazon said it would commit another $100 million to reforestation projects through the Right Now Climate Fund in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. That fund will invest in the protection of forests, wetlands and peatlands that now serve as carbon sinks which remove millions of metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Finally, the . company said it will speed up its adoption of renewable energy with the goal of converting 80 percent of the company’s energy sources to renewable energy by 2024, with the goal of reaching 100% renewable energy use by 2030.

Amazon has already initiated 15 utility-scale wind and solar renewable energy projects that will generate 1.3 gigawatts of renewable capacity and deliver some 3.8 million megawatt hours of clean energy, according to the company.

All of these efforts will be backstopped by a new sustainability reporting initiative, which will be housed on a new website monitoring and tracking the company’s progress toward its sustainability goals, the company said.

These steps are part of a push from Amazon to get other companies to sign on to a global non-binding agreement . to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Companies that sign on to Amazon-inspired “Climate Pledge” agree to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly; implement decarbonization strategies on a timeline that matches the Paris Agreement; and neutralize remaining emissions with quantifiable and permanent offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

“I’ve been talking with other CEOs of global companies, and I’m finding a lot of interest in joining the pledge. Large companies signing The Climate Pledge will send an important signal to the market that it’s time to invest in the products and services the signatories will need to meet their commitments,” Bezos said in a statement.

The initiative is backed by international political luminaries like Christiana Figueres, the former climate change chief and founding partner of Amazon’s collaborator on the Climate Pledge, Global Optimism.

“Bold steps by big companies will make a huge difference in the development of new technologies and industries to support a low carbon economy,” said Figueres, in a statement. “With this step, Amazon also helps many other companies to accelerate their own decarbonization. If Amazon can set ambitious goals like this and make significant changes at their scale, we think many more companies should be able to do the same and will accept the challenge. We are excited to have others join.”

 


0

Energy Vault raises $110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund as energy storage grabs headlines

02:30 | 15 August

Imagine a moving tower made of huge cement bricks weighing 35 metric tons. The movement of these massive blocks is powered by wind or solar power plants and is a way to store the energy those plants generate. Software controls the movement of the blocks automatically, responding to changes in power availability across an electric grid to charge and discharge the power that’s being generated.

The development of this technology is the culmination of years of work at Idealab, the Pasadena, Calif.-based startup incubator, and Energy Vault, the company it spun out to commercialize the technology, has just raised $110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund to take its next steps in the world.

Energy storage remains one of the largest obstacles to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy technologies on utility grids, but utilities, development agencies and private companies are investing billions to bring new energy storage capabilities to market as the technology to store energy improves.

The investment in Energy Vault is just one indicator of the massive market that investors see coming as power companies spend billions on renewables and storage. As The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, ScottishPower, the U.K.-based utility, is committing to spending $7.2 billion on renewable energy, grid upgrades and storage technologies between 2018 and 2022.

Meanwhile, out in the wilds of Utah, the American subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems is working on a joint venture that would create the world’s largest clean energy storage facility. That 1 gigawatt storage would go a long way toward providing renewable power to the Western U.S. power grid and is going to be based on compressed air energy storage, large flow batteries, solid oxide fuel cells and renewable hydrogen storage.

“For 20 years, we’ve been reducing carbon emissions of the U.S. power grid using natural gas in combination with renewable power to replace retiring coal-fired power generation. In California and other states in the western United States, which will soon have retired all of their coal-fired power generation, we need the next step in decarbonization. Mixing natural gas and storage, and eventually using 100% renewable storage, is that next step,” said Paul Browning, president and CEO of MHPS Americas.

Energy Vault’s technology could also be used in these kinds of remote locations, according to chief executive Robert Piconi.

Energy Vault’s storage technology certainly isn’t going to be ubiquitous in highly populated areas, but the company’s towers of blocks can work well in remote locations and have a lower cost than chemical storage options, Piconi said.

“What you’re seeing there on some of the battery side is the need in the market for a mobile solution that isn’t tied to topography,” Piconi said. “We obviously aren’t putting these systems in urban areas or the middle of cities.”

For areas that need larger-scale storage that’s a bit more flexible there are storage solutions like Tesla’s new Megapack.

The Megapack comes fully assembled — including battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC breaker and controls — and can store up to 3 megawatt-hours of energy with a 1.5 megawatt inverter capacity.

The Energy Vault storage system is made for much, much larger storage capacity. Each tower can store between 20 and 80 megawatt hours at a cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour (on a levelized cost basis), according to Piconi.

The first facility that Energy Vault is developing is a 35 megawatt-hour system in Northern Italy, and there are other undisclosed contracts with an undisclosed number of customers on four continents, according to the company.

One place where Piconi sees particular applicability for Energy Vault’s technology is around desalination plants in places like sub-Saharan Africa or desert areas.

Backing Energy Vault’s new storage technology are a clutch of investors, including Neotribe Ventures, Cemex Ventures, Idealab and SoftBank.

 


0

Tesla has a new energy product called Megapack

01:50 | 30 July

Tesla has launched a new utility-scale energy storage product called Megapack modeled after the giant battery system it deployed in South Australia as the company seeks to provide an alternative to natural gas “peaker” power plants.

Megapack is the third and largest energy storage system offered by Tesla. The company also sells the residential Powerwall and the commercial Powerpack systems.

Megapack, which Tesla announced Monday in a blog post, is the latest effort by the company to retool and grow its energy storage business, which is a smaller revenue driver than sales of its electric vehicles. Of the $6.4 billion in revenue posted in the second quarter, just $368 million was from Tesla’s solar and energy storage product business.

Tesla did deploy a record 415 megawatt-hours of energy storage products in the second quarter, a 81% increase from the previous quarter, according to Tesla’s second quarter earnings report that was released July 24. Powerwalls are now installed at more than 50,000 sites.

The Megapack offering could provide an even bigger boost if Tesla can convince utilities to opt for it instead of the more common natural gas peaker plants used today.

The so-called Megapack was specifically designed and engineered to be an easy-to-install utility-scale system. Each system comes fully assembled — that includes battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker and controls —with up to 3 megawatt-hours of energy storage and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity.

The system includes software, developed by Tesla, to monitor, control and monetize the  installations, the company said in a blog post announcing Megapack.

All Megapacks connect to Powerhub, an advanced monitoring and control platform for large-scale utility projects and microgrids, and can also integrate with Autobidder, Tesla’s machine-learning platform for automated energy trading, the company said.

Megapack was inspired by Tesla’s Hornsdale project, which combined its 100 MW Powerpack system with Neoen’s wind farm near Jamestown in South Australia. The Tesla Powerpack system stored power generated by the wind farm and then delivered the electricity to the grid during peak hours. The facility saved nearly $40 million in its first year.

Today, the go-to option for utilities are natural gas “peaker” power plants. Peaker power plants are used when a local utility grid can’t provide enough power to meet peak demand, an occurrence that has become more common as temperatures and populations rise.

Tesla hopes to be the sustainable alternative. And in states like California, which have ambitious emissions targets, Tesla could gain some ground. Instead of using a natural gas peaker plant, utilities could use the Megapack to store excess solar or wind energy to support the grid’s peak loads.

 


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How Carl Pope helped drive a $500 million pledge to push the U.S. “Beyond Carbon” (Part 2)

22:53 | 18 July

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg recently pledged to rapidly spend $500 million in a bid to push the U.S. “Beyond Carbon,” aiming to end this country’s use of coal and natural gas power in a generation or less.

In another recent piece, I featured an in-depth interview with Carl Pope, the veteran environmental leader who has essentially been the inspirational force behind Bloomberg’s evolution. The former New York City Mayor had never given a major gift to environmental causes as of a decade or so ago, until Pope “convinced” him to get involved.

Carl Mike Option 1

My previous piece was an attempt to understand the ethical vision influencing Bloomberg’s work, by looking at Pope’s personal story and the history of the environmental movement he has helped to shape. Below, Pope joins me again to look at the details of Bloomberg’s “Beyond Carbon” plan, including how he was able to persuade Bloomberg to take it on, and some areas of controversy that could arise as the $500 million is distributed.

Greg Epstein: You and Michael Bloomberg met around a decade ago or so, right?

Carl Pope: About 12 years ago, actually. 2007.

Epstein: Bloomberg had never given a major gift to an environmental group before he met you, and, as he writes in the book, you “convinced him” to get massively involved, to the tune now of many hundreds of millions of dollars. What do you think it is about you, the way that you approach things, or the work you do that made the two of you, in this relatively unlikely partnership, work so well?

Pope: We both like big ideas, and we both like to pursue them very pragmatically. We set very high expectations for what we want to get, and we’re willing to take necessarily small steps to get there. That’s one thing.

The second thing is, my original environmental frame was air pollution, [which] I worked on the first seven or eight years I was an environmentalist. Mike is a big public health advocate. So the fact that I was talking about saving people’s lives made a lot of sense to him.

Epstein: He talked about how you ‘showed him the numbers,’ back in 2011, on just how deadly coal actually is.

Pope: Yeah, that was the deal sealer.

Epstein: Interpersonally, what the interactions between you and him like?

Pope: We’re both public figures who are actually somewhat introspective, and so it works.

Epstein: I’ve read the “Beyond Carbon” plans as they’re presented by the Bloomberg organization. They do seem quite promising as far as broad, sweeping PR statements go.

But whether or not they will work is all in the details, right? You’re a detail-oriented person, as you just mentioned, so, what are some of the practical steps the plan calls for that you think deserve the most attention, beyond the headlines?

Pope: In A Climate of Hope, Mike and I articulated an approach to climate in which we gave our reasons for thinking that most climate leadership is going to come not from national governments but from businesses, cities, provinces, civic organizations, from the bottom up.

 


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Y Combinator-backed Project Wren is aiming to make carbon offsets more consumer friendly

22:09 | 7 July

When Landon Brand and Benjamin Stansfield graduated from the University of Southern California this year, they already had the plans for Project Wren, their service for selling carbon offsets to a new generation of conscious consumers.

Along with fellow co-founder Mimi Tran Zambetti (who’s still attending USC), Brand and Stansfield aim to make carbon offsets more accessible to people who may feel like there’s nothing they can do on a personal level to reduce their carbon footprint or support projects that reduce carbon emissions. 

It’s not a novel concept. In 2004, TerraPass launched its service to provide carbon offsets for consumers. The company was acquired in 2014 and now operates as a subsidiary of the publicly traded Canadian retail energy company, Just Energy.

Since TerraPass, other organizations have come in with services to offset consumer and corporate carbon emissions. The Swiss non-profit MyClimate is another organization working on offsets for corporations and individuals (as is the German non-profit, Atmosfair) and the North American public benefit corporation, NativeEnergy also has both a retail and corporate offset program.

Project Wren sources its offset investments from Project Drawdown and is trying to choose the projects that the company’s founders consider “most additional”, according to Brand.

Brand, Stansfield and Tran Zambetti met at USC while pursuing a bachelor of science degree in USC’s new Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. The two men are the co-founders of Beats, which sold to Apple for roughly $3 billion, but perhaps are more famous for their work in the music business as the co-founder of Interscope records and the rapper and producer known as Dr. Dre.

From the outset the three students worked together on side projects and in student organizations, and decided last year to launch a sustainable business that could impact consumers in a positive way. The first idea, and the one that was initially incorporated as Project Wren, was to develop an algorithmically enhanced software service to promote diversity and inclusion in companies.

“The idea was promising, but it’s a hard product to sell. Companies aren’t used to leveraging software to help build their culture,” Brand wrote in an email. “Trying to get people to use the product made us realize how difficult it is to build something that’s useful and good for the world. If we were going to build a company around doing good, it would take a decade or more.”

The group convened earlier this year and decided, after spending a year working on their idea, that the over ten years it would take to build a successful business was too long for them to see the impact they wanted to make in the world. “We felt like the mission of making companies a better place to work was important, but not urgent,” Brand wrote to me in an email. “Climate change is urgent. It’s the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. That’s why we decided to pivot.”

The group then decided that they would pool their resources on another project — a vegan cloud kitchen that could potentially become a franchise or chain.

“Meat production is responsible for as much as 20% of greenhouse gas emissions,” Brand wrote. “If we could make eating vegan food easier than eating meat, we would have a huge impact.”

The group ran a cloud kitchen out of Brand’s apartment for two weeks before deciding that, too, ultimately was a wash for the three young co-founders.

With that idea behind them, the three began researching carbon offsets, which led them to Project Drawdown, which led them to build their current website and, ultimately, Y Combinator .

Customers who buy offsets using Wren will support projects that the company has selected for their additionality (meaning the projects would not have been done without the support of organizations like Wren). Once the offsets are purchased Project Wren retires them from circulation so they can’t be traded on any exchange after their creation.

The company makes money by taking a 20% commission above the price of the project for operating expenses and marketing, says Brand.

What Brand sees as the young company’s competitive advantage is its ability to communicate more directly with a new audience of offset acquirers — engaging them more in the process by providing updates on the project.

“Photos, and stories too, from people on the ground will add a more human, real, touch,” to the projects and their reporting back to carbon offset buyers, according to Brand. “We just talk to a bunch of potential partners and see which partners would be able to give unique compelling updates to our users.”

 


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Oil and gas giants Chevron and Occidental are backing tech to combat carbon emissions

04:43 | 10 January

Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company developing technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and process it for use in enhanced oil recovery or in the creation of new synthetic fuels, has locked in financing from two big industry backers — Chevron and Occidental Petroleum — to bring its products to market.

The undisclosed amount of capital Carbon Engineering raised from the investment arms of two of the world’s largest oil and gas companies — Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures — will be used to commercialize its technology at a time when legislation in California and British Columbia are making low carbon fuels more economically viable, according to a statement from the company’s chief executive, Steve Oldham. The company had already managed to nab Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as an investor.

Gates is one of several big-name backers to be drawn to renewable energy technologies in the face of a steadily warming planet that’s rapidly approaching a tipping point-of-no-return when it comes to global climate change. Together with a group of other multi-billionaires including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Jack Ma, Masayoshi Son, and Meg Whitman, Gates launched a $1 billion fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures last year to back companies that are developing things like new energy storage and water production technologies.

The Squamish, B.C.-based Carbon Engineering isn’t in the Breakthrough portfolio, but is one of several companies working on making a technology called “direct air capture” of carbon dioxide economically viable.

At the company’s pilot plant in Squamish air gets hoovered up by giant fans into a processing facility where it is treated with potassium hydroxide, which captures and holds the carbon dioxide. Then more chemicals and heat are added to the mix to create millions of smell white pellets — which contain higher concentrations of the carbon dioxide.

After that, the pellets are heated again to create a gas which is almost pure carbon dioxide. That gas can be either sequestered underground (a proposition with no economic benefit for Carbon Engineering at the moment) or converted back into fuels, chemicals, or used in enhanced oil recovery.

Carbon Engineering and competitors like ClimeWorks or Global Thermostat claim that they can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for roughly $100 per ton or a bit less once they can get to scale. To make money though, they’ll need to refine that carbon dioxide into some sort of product — likely a fuel, which will return that carbon to the atmosphere.

Other companies tackling carbon capture like Newlight Technologies and Opus12 convert the carbon into plastics or chemicals while companies like CarbonCure aim to turn the captured carbon into a cement replacement.

While these products from carbon emissions are available, they’re not yet commercially viable at a significant scale. Oldham told National Public Radio that the fuel which Carbon Engineering manufactures is roughly 20 percent more expensive than regular gasoline.

That’s why states like California are putting incentives in place to offset the added costs of using these low carbon products.

Carbon Engineering has already spent $30 million to develop its process, while Climeworks raised $31 million last year to develop its own version of this carbon capture technology.

Not all climate watchers are convinced that these kinds of negative emission technologies are the answer. They argue that it’s less expensive to use renewable energy and other carbon-free energy sources than to take carbon dioxide out of the air.

At this point, though, emission reductions may not be enough. Given the dire reports coming out of the Trump Administration and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it’s going to take pretty much a combination of everything that humanity’s got to avoid a pretty catastrophic fate for a pretty large portion of the world’s population.

Even the companies that have been notorious for their contributions to the climate crisis that the world faces are waking up to the need for decarbonization (even if it’s an open question of whether they’re being dragged to the table or sitting down of their own free will).

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures is a good example. Reading the writing on the wall the firm has invested not just in Carbon Engineering, but another company called NET Power, which purports to have developed a power plant with zero emissions.

“It is a very important time for the air capture field right now,” said Oldham in a statement. “We’re seeing leading jurisdictions, like California and British Columbia, creating markets for low carbon fuels and technologies like DAC, through effective climate policy. These efficient market-based regulations, and action from energy industry leaders like Occidental and Chevron, show the power of policy in driving innovation and achieving emissions reductions while delivering reliable and affordable energy.”

 


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Facebook has committed to using 100% renewable power for global operations by 2020

21:02 | 28 August

Earlier today, Facebook said that it has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and using 100% renewable energy to power global operations at the social networking giant by the end of 2020.

So, while the company may have problems keeping foreign nationals from using the platform for influence operations (or garbage influencers from engaging in influence operations), at least they’ll be doing it with less of an effect on climate change.

Facebook gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back for its pace of acquiring renewable energy. The company bought over 3 gigawatts of new solar and wind energy since its first renewable energy purchase in 2013 (that includes 2.5 gigawatts in the past 12 months alone — a rate of acquisition that makes the intervening years look… well… kind of paltry).

What’s especially good about the Facebook renewable purchases is that they’re not just offset agreements — deals where a company buys renewable energy in some far flung geography to offset the power they’re buying in local markets that relies on traditional carbon-based fuel sources.

“All of these wind and solar projects are new and on the same grid as our data centers,” the company said. “That means that each of these projects brings jobs, investment and a healthier environment to the communities that host us — from Prineville, Oregon, and Los Lunas, New Mexico, to Henrico, Virginia, and Luleå, Sweden.”

The targets that Facebook is making public today are part of the company’s commitment to the Paris Agreement through the “We Are Still In” initiative, the company said.

For Facebook, the announcement is something of a victory lap. Back in 2015, the company set a goal of having 50% of its power supplied to facilities from renewable energy sources by 2018. It actually hit that target in 2017.

 

 


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