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Elon Musk announces $100M prize for carbon-capture technology contest

Elon Musk has climate change on his mind. The billionaire entrepreneur has just announced a $100 million donation for a competition aimed at producing the best carbon-capture technology.

The chief of Tesla and SpaceX announced the prize in a post to his 42 million Twitter followers on Thursday, January 21, adding that more details will be coming next week.

“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk said in the tweet.

Details next week

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2021

With climate change putting increasing pressure on the natural resources and habitat of both humans and animals, scientists say time is running out to turn things around.

Many governments appear to be finally waking up to the idea that some serious work needs to be done to drive down carbon emissions, with a growing number of environmental organizations also working toward the same goal.

Carbon capture is part of the effort. The technology prevents carbon dioxide produced by factories and power plants from entering the Earth’s atmosphere and causing a further damaging rise in the planet’s temperature.

Solvent filters are one solution, with the captured emissions able to be stored beneath the ground or used for purposes such as enhanced soil recovery and the manufacture of fuels and building materials. More than 20 commercial-scale carbon-capture projects are currently operating globally, with another 22 in development, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

TerraPass, a San Francisco-based social enterprise that provides carbon-offsetting products to individuals and businesses, describes Musk as, “without a doubt, one of today’s most prominent influencers when it comes to climate issues,” adding that “one reason for his reach is his ability to capture people’s attention … and often, he places the focus on the environment.”

In an interview in 2018, Musk said the the planet’s continuing use of fossil fuels is “an insane experiment,” and he put out a call for greater use of sustainable energy sources. “We’re really playing a crazy game here with the atmosphere and the oceans,” Musk said in the interview.

Musk isn’t averse to announcing the occasional competition, having previously done so for pet projects such as Hyperloop, a ultra-high-speed transportation system that uses a near-vacuum to propel passenger pods at up to 760 mph (1,223 kph) through tubes above or below ground. Numerous Hyperloop contests have encouraged engineers to come up with designs for the pods that will carry people through the tubes.

Be sure to check back next week for more details on Musk’s planned carbon-capture technology contest.

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Trevor Mogg
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