Elon Musk Donating $100 Million Prize for Best Carbon Capture Technology

Looks like Elon Musk has joined the ranks of climate philanthropists.
Brad Bergan

Elon Musk has just announced a $100 million prize for the best carbon capture technology in a bid to join the ranks of governments, leaders, and organizations with dedicated causes to slow the hastening creep of climate change, according to a recent tweet from the Tesla CEO.


Elon Musk donating $100 million prize for best carbon capture tech

"Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology," read a Thursday tweet from the SpaceX CEO. "Details next week," teased the billionaire, in a reply to himself.

For those of us who've spent the last 50 years on another planet, the advance of climate change is rapidly altering our global environment — placing species, ecosystems, economies, and global political schisms on a razor's edge.

Consequences of climate change include increased heat waves and droughts, insect outbreaks (yes, locusts), and more wildfires than infrastructures can quell.

UPDATE Jan. 21. 7:09 PM EST: Defining carbon capture

Carbon capture — also called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) — is the idea of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before they can escape into the atmosphere. This means creating technology to filter CO2 from climate-harming sources like coal-fired power plants.

The carbon is either recycled for use elsewhere, or stored somewhere it can't escape, rise, and mess with the atmosphere. The process of capturing CO2 on a grander scale requires the direct retrieval of CO2 from gas streams — using post-combustion techniques. Alternatively, low-carbon pre-combustion processes may also see implementation as a means of "capturing" CO2.

Many other companies — including Chevron and PepsiCo — are investing in new carbon-capture technology. The latter, PepsiCo, announced plans to reach 100% renewable energy for all U.S.-based operations last year. 

UPDATE Jan. 21, 7:17 PM EST: Corporate concessions to climate change necessary, but insufficient

Last July, Apple also declared its intention to become 100% carbon neutral by 2030 — across its entire global business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle.

"Businesses have a profound opportunity to help build a more sustainable future, one born of our common concern for the planet we share," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

However, the circle of mega-corporations and billionaires running the global economy will have trouble changing the global energy infrastructure without new technology.

UPDATE Jan. 21, 7:20 PM EST: Funding carbon capture technology amid COVID-19 advancements is timely

In 2019, a group of scientists from the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, and Jiangsu Normal University in China created a new material capable of capturing CO2 molecules, and turn them into less harmful, organic materials with minimal energy.

Their work creating this new material was published in the journal Nature Communications.

"We have successfully designed a porous material which has a high affinity towards CO2 molecules and can quickly and effectively convert it into useful organic materials," said Kyoto University's Ken-ichi Otake, a materials chemist, in a press release at the time.

However, with the rapid acceleration of climate change since then, compounded by the social, environmental, and economic strife exacerbated during the COVID-19 coronavirus — we've begun to see a technological revolution toward a new normal, and business leaders like Elon Musk are taking this opportunity to fund sustainable breakthroughs wherever they may happen.

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