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United chooses to absorb carbon from the air over offsets

(Bloomberg) – United Airlines Inc. today pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas impact to zero by 2050, a necessary step to prevent climate catastrophe, scientists say, while moving away from an increasingly common practice among the big global companies. “Carbon offsets”, or credits generated by forest conservation or other means, can be purchased in markets or privately to cancel emissions. Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said the practice cannot be scaled up to solve the climate problem in the way many hope. Instead, United’s multi-million dollar investment in 1PointFive, Inc., a Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Rusheen company Capital Management is based on what is called direct capture from the air, or facilities that extract CO₂ from the open air so that it can be removed underground. Carbon Engineering Ltd., a Vancouver company, developed the technology. United’s contribution to the initiative is expected to extract as much CO₂ from the air each year as 40 million trees. The project has been in the works since before the pandemic, and aviation faces unique challenges in cutting carbon emissions. Unlike electricity, which can be produced with renewable energy, or road vehicles, which can be electrified, airplanes require specialized fuel. CO₂ emissions from this fast-growing sector account for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gases. What’s worse, CO₂ emission is not even aviation’s biggest contribution to climate change, which includes contrail clouds left by airplanes and helps trap heat on the Earth’s surface – a headache for more. The United, despite the unprecedented losses in 2020, has the resources to address emissions more directly than by buying offsets. “Part of the reason others haven’t done it is because it costs money to do this,” he says. “If instead you can write a check to an NGO and say you’ve offset all your carbon, that’s historically been an easier way to get there.” Today’s announcement aligns with the company’s promise to cut carbon prices in half. emissions by 2050. Kirby, who took over the company in May, said over time he has come to believe that there are three elements to a strategic climate fight. There is renewable energy, which is now economically competitive in much of the world. There’s sustainable fuel, which United invested $ 40 million in last year and has used it where it can at least since 2016. And it’s capturing CO₂ and storing it underground. The airline currently offers a way for business travelers to offset emissions. related to your flights, and will continue to do so. There is a reason these two positions are not mutually exclusive, Kirby said. There are many quality offset programs around the world, but not enough to offset the emissions of all the companies that want it. Investing in direct air capture, by logic, allows United to become an early advocate for a technology that may become less expensive and more common as the years go by. “We will continue to emit carbon,” he said. “It is not possible to bring real carbon emissions to zero. And so the only way to stop and reverse this is through direct air capture. And that has seemed obvious to me for a long time. I think it’s obvious to anyone who takes the time to understand science and math. ”Original Note: United Will Suck Carbon From the Air Instead of Buying Offsets For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source. © 2020 Bloomberg LP

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