1/n A $100m carbon removal @xprize cool! But folks who care about climate should ask some hard questions.

Virgin Earth Challenge $25m prize launched in '07 by @richardbranson. Original prize terms were nonsensical: required a $ bn business to win so the $25m would be meaningless https://twitter.com/xprize/status/1358780911370842114
2/n the Virgin (VEC) prize revamped the terms to say winners had to have pathway to giga scale commercial #CDR, but terms remained deeply ambiguous.

On the plus side, VEC helped us raise funds and attention when I was working to found @CarbonEngineer in '09.
3/n On minus side, the VEC prize diverted resources inside @CarbonEngineer, @Climeworks and other competitors.

@richardbranson and team waited until total funding in space was >> $25 m so impact would have been small, then they punted. Result? Not much.
4/n @xprize has fumbled the ball on carbon removal before. The Cosia https://www.xprize.org/prizes/carbon  prize was partially designed to provide political cover for the Oil/Tar Sands. Focus with focus on fancy products not cost effective carbon mitigation.
5/n result of Cosia @xprize -- some interesting tech but also an over-focus on utilization as a metric rather than cost effective net carbon reductions that stand up to life cycle analysis.

How much did prize hype to protect existing industry boost CCUS?
6/n What next with @elonmusk's $100m? Prizes work well when goal is relevant and easy to measure objectively. The longitude prize was both. So was the original Ansari x-prize. But for carbon removal goal is long run cost and environmental effectiveness at scale.
7/n Much harder to devise sensible prize terms for industrial tech like #CDR. No way to objectively know cost until tech is fully developed at which point prize is too small to be meaningful (the first VEC problem).

One bad result is an political beauty contest between startups
8/n Another bad result is to focus #carbon removal development on criteria that are objectively measurable at small scale but not well aligned with the long-term goals. E.g., an over focus on energy efficiency to exclusion of capital cost or other impacts.
9/n In summary..

We need fast innovation to cut cost and enviro footprint of carbon removal.

Prizes grab attention.

Folks will exploit that attention.

Hard to make prizes that work for techs like CDR
You can follow @DKeithClimate.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled:

By continuing to use the site, you are consenting to the use of cookies as explained in our Cookie Policy to improve your experience.