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A view of Climeworks' direct-air carbon capture technology. Photo: Julia Dunlop/Climeworks

The world's largest direct-air carbon dioxide capture and sequestration plant, developed by Climeworks and Carbfix, went online in Iceland on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Though current direct CO2 capture and storage technologies can offset only a tiny fraction of annual emissions, some climate scientists believe they will have an important role in limiting global warming and climate change in the future.

How it works: The plant, called "Orca" after the Icelandic word for energy, first captures CO2 by collecting and filtering it from the atmosphere using Climeworks' technology.

  • The gas is then dissolved in water and injected underground into rock formations, where it forms solid carbonate minerals — a process provided by Carbfix.
  • The plant, which runs off of renewable energy from the nearby Hellisheidi geothermal plant, can sequester up to 4,000 tons of CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of the annual emissions from around 800 cars.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Ben Geman: It’s a tiny drop in the bucket against the global total of well over 30 billion metric tonnes of energy-related CO2 emissions annually.

  • But the project is another sign that direct air capture could eventually join the basket of technologies needed to effectively combat global warming.
  • Yes, but: Even if direct air capture and other carbon-removal tech massively scale up, it doesn’t end the need for rapid and steep emissions reductions and aggressive clean energy deployment in order to keep the goals of the Paris climate deal within reach.

The big picture: Climeworks' business model in part relies on the sale of carbon offsets, but the company did not disclose how much it will cost to sequester a ton of CO2 specifically at the Orca plant.

  • Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks' co-founder and co-CEO, said Wednesday the plant will help the company reach its goal of offering between $100 and $200 per ton of sequestered CO2 in the next decade.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

California governor declares drought emergency for entire state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speakinng to reporters in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures," per a statement from the governor's office. This past August was the driest and hottest one on record, "and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record," the statement added.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these recommendations with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.

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