4 carbon-capture startups to watch after Musk teases $100 million prize – Business Insider

  • Tesla chief Elon Musk said Thursday that he’s putting $100 million towards a prize for the “best” carbon-capture technology. 
  • Scientists say carbon capture is necessary to achieve the goals under the Paris Agreement, which the US just rejoined.
  • We talked to top VCs including Vinod Khosla in December about which startups to watch, and they offered four that are working on carbon capture tech. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

By way of a simple 11-word tweet, Tesla chief Elon Musk said Thursday he’s donating $100 million to develop a prize for the “best” carbon-capture technology, becoming the latest billionaire to throw weight behind the nascent industry.

Musk, the world’s second-wealthiest man, didn’t say what the prize would entail. He mentioned more details will come next week. 

Carbon capture technologies are designed to pull greenhouse gas emissions out of the air or from sources of pollution, such as steelmaking factories, typically as a tool to fight climate change. In many cases, the captured carbon dioxide is recycled to make new products like sustainable fuels. 

Musk has hinted in the past at the idea of using carbon-capture technologies to make rocket fuel. Rocket flights will be net-zero in the longterm, he said on Twitter in 2019, by using this approach. More recently he asked his followers for advice on how to spend his fortunes to make a difference. 

The Tesla founder is among a growing list of big investors to pile into carbon capture.

In January, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate venture fund led by Bill Gates, said it had raised a second $1 billion fund, which will go towards tough climate challenges that may include direct-air carbon capture. And Microsoft said it would put $1 billion towards carbon capture and removal early last year. 

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Read more: A Bill Gates-led climate venture fund just raised another $1 billion. Here’s the tech it’s eyeing.

The challenge to scaling up the technology — which scientists say will be necessary to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement — is bringing down the cost, especially for direct-air capture. The price tag for capturing a ton of carbon dioxide can be as high as $600. 

A raft of startups is working to that end, testing out cheaper technologies and piloting new facilities — though it’s not clear whether they’ll be among the firms eligible for Musk’s money. 

In December, we asked more than a dozen top climate-tech VCs which startups to watch in 2021. Four of the names they offered up were firms focused on carbon capture, which we’ve included below. They’re listed in alphabetical order. 



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