Petra Nova, located just south of Houston, is America’s first commercial carbon capture plant. It began operating in April 2017. Photo: Amy Harder / Axios

HOUSTON -- A recently passed U.S. law supporting projects capturing carbon emissions from fossil-fuel facilities will drive development of the technology in America, the top tech officer at Saudi Aramco said Monday at an energy conference.

Why it matters: Government-owned Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil company, so the predictions its top executives say hold significant sway in the global oil and natural gas industry. This technology is also considered essential to cutting carbon emissions to the level, scientists say, the world must reach to avoid the greatest risks associated with a warmer world.

Fast facts:

  • The bill expanded and renewed an existing tax credit.
  • It puts a price on carbon emissions that are captured, for either storage underground or for re-use in some way.
  • The most common way to re-use carbon is controversial among environmentalists seeking to address climate change: to extract oil out of old wells.
  • The expanded credit, known as 45Q, was approved as part of a budget bill President Trump signed earlier this year.
  • The technology is prohibitively expensive in most places in the world because there’s no broad and explicit price on carbon emissions.

Quoted:

Just recently there was a law approved, the 45Q, in the U.S., which I think is very progressive, which I think is going to drive the takeoff of the technology here in North America, in the U.S., because it really does create a market incentive.”
— Ahmad Al Khowaiter, chief technology officer, Saudi Aramco

The big picture: Saudi Aramco is at this conference, CERAWeek by IHS Markit, in part touting its increased research and development focus. It’s a new sponsor of a tech hub housed inside the overall conference. Al Khowaiter told a small group of reporters that its R&D budget is roughly evenly divided between upstream, downstream and sustainability. Sustainability is a new focus since 2014, he said.

Go deeper: Surprise: Congress backs bipartisan climate policy

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China says U.S. is "endangering peace" with high-level visit to Taiwan

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, DC. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 18,543,662 — Total deaths: 700,714 — Total recoveries — 11,143,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 4,771,236 — Total deaths: 156,807 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. States: New York City health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response — Local governments go to war over schools.
  4. Public health: 59% of Americans support nationwide 2-week stay-at-home order in NPR poll.
  5. Politics: Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery Republicans push to expand small business loan program.
  6. Sports: Indy 500 to be held without fansRafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open.
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At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured after massive explosion rocks Beirut

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion has slammed central Beirut, Lebanon, damaging buildings as far as several miles away and injuring scores of people.

Driving the news: At least 100 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured in the blast — and the death toll is likely to rise, the Lebanese Red Cross said, per AP. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for the past six years.