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Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Exxon is calling for expansive industry-government collaboration to develop big carbon capture and storage projects around Houston, Texas.

Why it matters: Technology to trap emissions and permanently stash them underground could become a tool against global warming, but deployment has been very slow to get off the ground and remains in the nascent stages.

  • The Houston area is dotted with major petrochemical, manufacturing and power facilities.

Driving the news: "We believe the time is right for a large-scale collaboration in the United States between government at every level, private industry, academia and local communities to create an 'Innovation Zone' approach to dramatically accelerate [carbon capture and storage] progress," Joe Blommaert, head of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, said in a blog post Monday.

The big picture: Exxon's proposal summary argues the region is ripe for the effort — it has lots of industrial facilities and it's located near subsea geologic formations that can store large amounts of CO2.

  • "It would be a huge project, requiring the collective support of industry and government, with a combined estimated investment of $100 billion or more," Blommaert's post notes.
  • Exxon did not offer an estimate of how much of the cost should come from the industry.

The intrigue: Exxon said it has already briefed government officials and industry groups, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), Sen. John Cornyn (R), House members in the region, and the Greater Houston Partnership.

  • Casey Norton, a spokesperson, tells Axios they have "had conversations" with the Biden administration about the idea, but did not provide further details.
  • Norton also said they've begun reaching out to other companies. “In general we’re looking at 50 of the largest industrial companies in the Houston region,” he said.

By the numbers: They estimate that with "appropriate policies in place," infrastructure could be created in Houston to capture and store 50 million metric tons of CO2 annually by 2030 and 100 million per year by 2040.

  • For comparison, that 2040 total would be about 2% of what the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates were 5,130 million metric tons of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 (a tally that also includes transportation, the biggest source).
  • Exxon's proposal also says the experience gained in Houston could be applied to other U.S. areas with lots of heavy industry that's near storage sites, like the midwest and elsewhere in the Gulf.

What we don't know: Whether the proposal will have legs. Exxon's post says that in addition to private and government funding, the plan would require policy changes.

  • The U.S. already provides some tax incentives for CO2-trapping projects. But they company says large-scale capture and storage requires a "durable regulatory and legal environment" to boost investment.
  • Blommaert's post also calls for a price on carbon, which faces huge hurdles on Capitol Hill.

What we're watching: The reaction from Biden administration officials and lawmakers.

  • The effort comes as Exxon faces growing pressure from activist investors and environmentalists to do much more on climate change, but carbon capture isn't popular among some green groups.
  • In addition, activists are pressing for policies that quickly move the country away from fossil fuels at a time when low-carbon projects remain a very small part of major oil companies' spending.

Go deeper: Exxon outlines plan to expand carbon capture efforts

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The private climate finance surge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There's so much private equity and infrastructure fund action in the climate tech space these days that it's hard to keep up.

Driving the news: Brookfield Asset Management on Tuesday closed $7 billion for its Global Transition Fund that aims to scale clean energy and help carbon-intensive industries cut emissions.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate Dems' tricky climate infrastructure message

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

We now know more about the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure plan — and Democrats' tactical approach to the advancing package that has a suite of climate-related provisions.

Catch up fast: The Senate voted 67-32 to move the $1.2 trillion plan toward debate last night. Per a White House release it includes...

Judge temporarily blocks South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked South Carolina's ban on mask mandates in schools, ruling that it discriminated against students with disabilities and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why it matters: As mask bans extend to public schools around the country, parents and disability rights activists have sounded alarm bells. The ruling may signal the outcomes of legal fights playing out across the country.