With his stakes in Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has become the richest person in the world this year. According to calculations by the news agency Bloomberg, his net worth was last $ 201 billion, $ 8 billion more than that of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Like many ultra-wealthy people in the USA, Musk says he does not want to keep the world habitable for himself, but with Tesla and, if necessary, open up other living spaces with SpaceX. And now he wants to pass on $ 100 million: in a competition for technology to rid the air of the climate gas carbon dioxide.
Tesla products are designed to avoid CO2
Musk announced this to the delight of many followers in a short Twitter message late on Thursday. “Donate $ 100 million for an award for the best carbon capture technology,” he wrote. Details should follow in the coming week.
According to the knowledge of an overwhelming majority in science, excessive carbon dioxide emissions over decades will cause the average temperature on earth to rise in the long term, with the result of more extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels. Governments around the world have therefore set targets for reducing emissions, which they pursue with varying degrees of consistency. Electric cars like those from Tesla can make a contribution. This is especially true if your batteries are produced and charged with electricity from low-CO2 sources. Musk also wants to ensure this with photovoltaics and stationary storage systems from Tesla.
But all of this only affects future emissions, and depending on how the rest of the world and the economy progresses in reducing it, it may also require the removal of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. That is what Musk seems to expect given his price announcement.
Competitions like the one he has just announced for carbon dioxide are a popular method, especially in the USA, of achieving goals that are considered desirable. Well-known for this is the X-Prize Foundation, which has already advertised prizes for a variety of issues such as a moon landing or the sequencing of the human genome. They are each financed by companies or wealthy private individuals.
Capture CO2 with tons of trees?
This organization could also use Musk if he donated his 100 million dollars to carbon dioxide – or he would go it alone again, as is usual with Tesla or SpaceX. Carbon capture in the narrower sense is about capturing emissions directly at the source, such as fossil power plants, and storing the gas safely; but it can also include capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. The first suggestions came immediately after Musk’s price announcement on Twitter, including one that doesn’t sound like high-tech, but could be efficient: planting tons of new trees.