Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Reducing Global Warming: Environmental Initiative or Commercial Industry?

By Danielle RaginPublished October 21, 2014

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Some innovative entrepreneurs are turning the fight against global warming into a profitable industry. They are harnessing greenhouse gas emissions as a resource to make commercial products and materials while revolutionizing environmental and business initiatives.
By Danielle Ragin, 10/21/14

Much of the world has recognized that global warming is a dire issue and that new methods must be developed to slow its effects and reduce carbon emissions.  Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), which consists of capturing and compressing carbon into a liquid form to be injected and stored underground, has been regarded as a cutting-edge carbon reducing technology.  However, instead of spending billions of dollars to bury carbon dioxide in the ground, what if it's possible to harness greenhouse gas emissions to make a profit?

Some innovative entrepreneurs have answered this question and are turning the fight against global warming into a business.  They are revolutionizing industries by utilizing greenhouse gas emissions to make commercial products and materials.

Syonic, a Texas-based corporation, is building the world's first profitable carbon capture and mineralization plant, known as SkyMine.  By using salt, water, and electricity, the technology captures and mineralizes carbon dioxide from industrial waste streams.  Syonic then transforms the solid carbonates and bicarbonates into carbon byproducts, including baking soda, hydrochloric acid, chlorine, bleach, and other environmentally-friendly chemicals, which can be sold on the market. 

Depending on the needs of the specific industrial or power plant and the configuration of the SkyMine, this unique technology can remove 10 to 99% of the carbon dioxide from the plant's exhaust.  It can replace existing scrubber technologies because it also removes other pollutants including sulfur oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and mercury in the process.  Unlike many other emission reducing and green-tech organizations, Skyonic does not rely on any federal funding.  The company estimates that their new plant set to open next month will generate $50 million in annual revenue.  Moreover, plants that team up with Skyonic could improve their public images and save hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses associated with the scrubber technologies that the SkyMine would replace. 

Another company, Joule, converts carbon dioxide into synthetic fuel by using solar energy.  This Massachusetts-based company uses product-specific catalysts to continuously metabolize carbon dioxide and convert it into ethanol and hydrocarbons, which can be used to produce diesel fuel, jet fuel, and gasoline.  Although it will take a few years before Joule's commercial facility will be operational, Joule projects that its fuel could be sold at only $1.20 a gallon.

Furthermore, Newlight Technologies in California captures methane from dairy farms to make a plastic known as AirCarbon.  The company combines air with the methane-based carbon emissions to create the carbon-negative thermoplastic, which performs on the same level as fossil fuel-based plastics and is more price-competitive.  Like oil-based plastics, AirCarbon can be molded and shaped into durable, practical products.  Newlight Technologies already has two factories and will soon be producing AirCarbon for common products including chairs, automotive parts, and food containers.

These technologies could revolutionize environmental and business initiatives.  By harnessing greenhouse emissions as useful resources, companies are creating a profitable industry out of reducing global warming.  While these ground-breaking technologies alone cannot solve climate change, they are steering the world in the right direction.