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American Airlines Is Buying Carbon Removal on the Cheap

The most notable part of the airline’s deal with Graphyte is the price.

An American airplane.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

American Airlines will purchase carbon credits from a biomass-based carbon-removal startup in a deal that could reshape how corporate emitters offset their emissions, The Wall Street Journalreports. The startup, Graphyte, collects carbon dioxide-absorbent agricultural byproducts such as rice hulls, tree bark, and sawdust, compresses it into bricks, then seals and buries it. Its first project, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, plans to begin manufacturing and burying the bricks by July.

What’s particularly notable about Graphyte’s deal with American Airlines is the price. American will pay Graphyte $100 per metric ton — as opposed to the $675 charged on average by Graphyte’s competitors in direct air capture, a process that typically involves massive fans that suck carbon from the atmosphere. Industry experts and analysts consider the $100 mark the threshold at which carbon removal could become a scalable, economically viable tool in the fight against climate change. As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo recently noted, the direct air capture firm Climeworks hopes to get its price down to $100 to $300 per ton by 2050 at the earliest.

Unfortunately, Graphyte’s deal with American will only remove 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a tiny fraction of the 35 million metric tons that the airline emitted in 2022. So while the partnership is welcome, the scale of the task ahead — for Graphyte and the many other startups rushing into the carbon removal space — is dizzying. As Chris Rivest of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the Bill Gates-backed VC firm that is funding Graphyte, told the Post, “We’ve bet the future of our planet on our ability to remove CO2 from the air … Pretty much every IPCC scenario that has a livable planet involves us pulling like 5 to 10 gigatons of CO2 out of the air by mid- to late-century.” Five to 10 gigatons — we’re going to need a lot of sawdust.

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Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine. Read More

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Sparks

Coal’s Slowdown Is Slowing Down

Rising electricity demand puts reliability back on the table.

Pollution.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The United States has been able to drive its greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level since the early 1990s largely by reducing the amount of energy on the grid generated by coal to a vast extent. In 2005, by far the predominant source of U.S. electricity, making up some 2.2 million gigawatt-hours of the country’s 4.3 million GWh total energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2022, by contrast, coal generation was down to 900,000 GWh out of 4.5 million GWh generated. As a result, “U.S. emissions are 15.8% lower than 2005 levels, while power emissions are 40% lower than 2005 levels,” according to BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

But the steady retirement of coal plants may be slowing down. Only 2.3 GW of coal generating capacity are set to be shut down so far in 2024, according to the Energy Information Administration. While in 2025, that number is expect to jump up to 10.9 GW, the combined 13.2 GW of retired capacity pales in comparison of the more than 22 GW retired in the past two years, according to EIA figures. Over the past decade, coal retirements have averaged about 10 GW a year, with actual retirements often outpacing forecasts.

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Sparks

Trump Thinks EV Charging Will Cost $3 Trillion — Which Is Incorrect

Nor will charging infrastructure ”bankrupt” the U.S.

Electric car charging.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Shortly after being fined $350 million (more than $450 million, including interest) over fraudulent business practices and then booed at Sneaker Con, former President Donald Trump traveled to Waterford, Michigan, where he said some incorrect things about electric vehicles.

Even by Trump’s recent standards, Saturday’s Waterford rally was a bit kooky. During his nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech, the former president claimed that his opponents are calling him a whale (“I don’t know if they meant a whale from the standpoint of being a little heavy, or a whale because I got a lot of money”) and, improbably, claimed not to have known what the word “indictment” meant.

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This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

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