Good afternoon dear readers and welcome back to Green Global! This is Ken Baxter and today is Wednesday, October 7th, 2015. You may recall after reading our many blogs and watching our videos on YouTube, that we’ve always been huge supporters of Richard Branson and his many charitable endeavors. In fact, Green Global is fully aligned with Sir Richard’s recent announcement backing the X Prize Foundation which has come up with a new and exciting way to achieve our shared mission of climate change reversal. Keep reading to find out more about the $20 million dollar prize and what that could mean for the environmental and economic health of our planet!
Over the last several weeks, I have spent the majority of my days and nights on expedition to the beautiful mountains in neighboring Utah and here in Nevada. Camping, hiking, horseback riding, and listening to the rustle of leaves and trickling mountain streams sure have a way of soothing frazzled nerves from the usual barrage of ringing cell phones and dinging emails constantly battling for attention.
During some of our longer hikes, while hearing the birds chirp and watching deer and elk meander by, I enjoyed spending time in solitude thinking about the ways in which we must respect and conserve the precious natural reserves we have left. After all, the world is not ours alone; it belongs to all the species of the earth and we are all interdependent upon one another for survival. The sad truth is that people have largely strewn their care for our land, our wildlife, and nature to the side in favor of a faster-paced, convenience driven lifestyle…but at what cost?
There are few places left in the world where humans haven’t trampled, trodden, or interfered with nature in order to extract some valuable souvenir. Oil fields, natural gas reserves, and coal mines all over the planet continue to be harvested until they run dry so that we can continue driving gas guzzling SUV’s and cranking our air conditioners up on the hottest summer days. All three are considered non-renewable resources and are expected to reach their peak (the point in time at which we have extracted the maximum amount possible and thereafter will enter a terminal decline) sometime in the next 25-50 years.
Furthermore, as a byproduct of our heavy reliance on these non-sustainable resources, exorbitant amounts of harmful carbon dioxide are released when converting them into energy. Carbon waste, emissions, pollution, whatever you want to call it – it’s essentially garbage. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have contributed more CO2 to the atmosphere from the combustion or burning of these fossil fuels than any other source on the planet; and it’s now reached about 40 billion tons per year. This extreme amount of waste is what’s causing rising global temperatures, worsening drought conditions, surging sea levels, stronger hurricanes and storms, and bigger forest fires… our carbon junk is causing a lot more damage than the dirty smog we can see sweeping over the skyscrapers in our world’s largest cities.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and for everyday citizens, simple changes like switching out incandescent light bulbs to energy efficient CFL bulbs can prevent as much as 700 pounds of carbon dioxide per bulb, per year, from escaping into the atmosphere. Reducing our reliance on gas-powered vehicles could save about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon, and changing our diets to eliminate the consumption of red meat, as I have, could wipe out nearly 3000 pounds of methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per person, per year. Despite ongoing efforts by concerned citizens across the globe to reduce, reuse, and recycle in order to lessen our carbon footprint, it’s still not enough to completely stop global warming.
Individual users can only conserve so much; there must be a more wide scale, concentrated effort made by large corporations around the world, particularly by the energy producers, in order to make a truly significant impact and avoid catastrophic climate change. For example, it is estimated that a typical coal plant emits nearly 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year and are the nation’s leading carbon dioxide producers. In the U.S. alone there are still about 572 operational plants and when combined, cause over 2 billion tons of carbon waste to be produced per year. Worldwide there are more than 2300 coal-fired power stations, giving off more than 8 billion tons of excess carbon dioxide and adding up to one bleak picture.
Researchers across the map are looking for viable, cost-effective carbon management solutions, especially as the world’s use of coal continues to grow in countries like China and India where pollution controls are minimal. One such solution, carbon capturing technology (CCS), stores the CO2 underground in depleted oil and gas fields or deep saline aquifers so they cannot co-mingle with the atmosphere. Yet, critics say it’s not feasible to expect all the carbon waste we produce to fit in a finite storage area and also feel relying on carbon capturing perpetuates our dependence on fossil fuels rather than promoting the use of renewable resources. Further concerns about human caused earthquakes and accidental, concentrated CO2 leaks are speculated but have not been fully investigated.
The good news is government and private sector innovators worldwide are still looking for better, more permanent solutions. Last week, a very special announcement highlighted by Sir Richard Branson, founder of the infamous Virgin Group, in his October 1st blog, tells us that XPrize Foundation’s latest competition may hold the key to winning the war on carbon pollution and climate change. Sir Richard points out the 13th goal, “Climate Action,” from The Global Goals for Sustainable Development list, in which world leaders have committed to seventeen worldwide goals to achieve three extraordinary things in the next fifteen years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.
The latter of these may be coming in the not-so-distant future, thanks to The NRG COSIA Carbon X Prize. Sponsored by NRG Energy and Canada’s Oil Sands Industry Alliance, Carbon X offers a $20 million purse to find a solution to one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems. The two main prizes of $7.5 million each will go to the winners who make the most valuable, productive, and profitable conversion of harnessed CO2 waste from both coal and gas powered energy plants. A U.S. coal plant and a Canadian gas plant are expected to become the test sites for the event and will be announced in the near future.
XPrize founder Peter Diamandis has called his money-motivated competition model “conscious-driven capitalism” and says the three-stage, five year carbon event is open for registration over the next six months to companies, university research teams, and everyday geniuses with “really good” ideas. Besides the two top prizes, all ten finalists will receive $500,000 and retain the rights to their intellectual property. Diamandis says he originally founded the XPrize in 1995 to incentivize competition to address societal challenges, be an innovation engine, and facilitator of exponential change.
Dan Wicklum, chief executive of co-sponsor COSIA added at a news conference this week, “We can change the rules of the game, starting today, by re-imagining carbon…we are throwing down the gauntlet, we are lighting a fire under the brightest minds in the world, anywhere.” Wicklum aptly calls climate change “one of the biggest challenges facing the planet” and adds that “there are lots of different sectors seeing this is an absolutely viable way of accelerating innovation. I can guarantee new ideas will emerge, I can absolutely guarantee that different technologies will be packaged in different ways that we haven’t seen before. I can guarantee that we will have a critical mass of effort focused on this challenge that we haven’t seen before.”
It will be interesting to watch the competition unfold and imperative to our planet’s future to see the inventive solutions placed into action. Even though the implementation of the discovered technologies may be a ways off, what really matters in the meantime is that these energy leaders are finally taking initiative and responsibility for their contribution to global warming and seeking the solutions our planet needs for survival. While the technologies uncovered through the X Prize are unlikely to solve our climate crisis alone, they will definitely play a significant role in battling global warming, reducing our carbon impact,and leaving the world a better place for generations to come.
For more information about Green Global’s mission and strategic alliances and for tips on how you can help reduce your carbon footprint, please visit us at: www.GreenGlobal.org. You can also follow us on Twitter: @GreenGlobalOrb and “Like” us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenglobalorb to stay informed about the latest news on climate change reform and to keep track of the latest updates about this exciting X Prize event!