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Scientists at a company part-owned by Bill Gates say they've found a cheap way to convert CO2 into gasoline

Key Points
  • Scientists discovered a new technique that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and converts it into liquid gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.
  • A similar process could be used applied to trap greenhouse gases, reducing the amount of heat-trapping substances in the atmosphere
Xuanyu Han

A team of scientists claims to have discovered a cheaper way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into gasoline or other fuels, which could arm humanity with a new tool in the fight against climate change.

Published in the scientific journal Joule on Thursday, the research demonstrates a new technique that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and converts it into liquid gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. 

Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering, in partnership with researchers from Harvard, used little more than limestone, hydrogen and air for the process, which can remove one metric ton of CO2 for as little as $94, the scientists say. It cleans up the environment, and produces eco-friendly liquid fuel at the same time. 

"Until now, research suggested it would cost $600 per ton to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using DAC technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale,"  David Keith, Harvard Professor and founder of Carbon Energy said in a statement. "We now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100 per ton." 

DAC refers to "direct air capture" technology, or the technique by which Carbon Engineering extracts CO2 from air.

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A similar process could be used applied to trap greenhouse gases under ground. That particular application of the technology entails pumping gases into the ground, rather than producing a liquid fuel product.

The technique has been removing CO2 from the atmosphere since 2015 from a small pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. Carbon Engineering is seeking funding to build an industrial-scale version of the plant, which Keith told the Atlantic the company can complete by 2021.

Carbon Engineering is owned by several private investors,  including Bill Gates.

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