Sep 12, 2023 - Technology

Amazon backs new carbon tech to try to reach "net zero" emissions

Illustration of a cardboard box full of carbon molecule with more falling from above.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon just became the latest corporate giant to back direct air capture (DAC) technology.

Driving the news: The company on Tuesday announced plans to buy 250,000 tons of removal and permanent storage services over 10 years from 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum.

  • The removal will occur at a Texas plant under construction that's slated to start operating in 2025.
  • Amazon also revealed it's investing in CarbonCapture, a developer of modular DAC systems, via its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund.
  • Neither deal's terms were disclosed.

Why it matters: It's the tech giant's first foray into DAC, one of the carbon removal methods receiving growing investor and federal support.

  • The 1PointFive agreement is among the largest corporate removal purchases to date, similar to the 315,000 ton Microsoft-Heirloom deal announced last week.
  • Amazon is joining others, including Meta, Alphabet and JPMorgan, in buying DAC services.

Catch up fast: 1PointFive is also a key player in a separate Texas project supported by an Energy Department-backed DAC "hubs" program.

The big picture: DAC is now among the tools Amazon's banking on — to some degree — to help reach its vow to be "net zero" emissions by 2040.

  • The company is involved with a suite of renewable power projects and efforts to electrify its gigantic delivery fleet, among other steps.
  • The pledge fund, meanwhile, is supporting roughly two dozen startups representing a wide range of climate technologies.

State of play: Amazon needs multiple tools.

  • It has a big CO2 footprint (partly due to all that shipping), and last year its absolute emissions fell by 0.4% to roughly 71.3 million metric tons, per Amazon's sustainability report.
  • Kara Hurst, VP for worldwide sustainability, said in a statement that DAC can "complement" initiatives to directly cut corporate emissions.

The bottom line: These removal volumes are a rounding error compared with what's needed for DAC to become a viable way to help stem climate change.

  • Eventually reaching gigaton scale will rely on more of the kinds of investments we're seeing today.
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