Elon Musks Climate Challenge

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Elon Musk is “in the money” at the moment. His cash position is about $205 Billion probably due to the stellar rise of his stock and growing trust in his multiple endeavours. He makes cars, batteries, solar panels, roof tiles, starships, tunnels, flame throwers, short shorts and promises to make planes, supercars, neural implants, colonies in space, efficient mining operations. The proces is simple realy : Want something doable and then dig in until it is done.

His primary motivation for all his actions was to do good to humanity. He wondered how this could be done and his conclusion was to try to spread (human) consciousness over more than one planet, so as to be redundant (consciousness is super rare in space), his other idea was to try to keep Earth safe, and to create cathalysts for change, for example the electric car. We and he was immesurably lucky to make enough money to start trying to do both things, and it is really thanks to his persistence that we can feel confident the entire car industry is switching to electric, and that the cost of batteries will drop so low that even flying electric at scale will happen soon.

This is just amazing. This is incredibly rare. We can’t stress this enough.

You would think there world if Ayn Rand or Jules Vernes in which some man can invent a new sort of revolutionary steel is long past, but it isn’t, it just depends on how much and how many people try. Due to fossil economic reasons (serving the fossil and bank interests) we have been stuck with a lot of half baked solutions that stay that way just to secure fossil fuel cashflow and bank control (through ever recurring costs for fossil fuels mainly). It is a dependency trap and banks have been the wardens. We have written about this often. Now, due to someone having $160 million in cash (Elon Musk) this is changing.

Still this is not going fast enough. We need faster innovation and scaling of carbon capture solutions. The reason is that CO2 is escaping to the higher atmosphere. There it can stay for ages out of reach of trees or other capturing devices. It is like throwing ink in a swimming pool, right after it drops in you can still scoop it out, but after a while it is diluted to the point where it is invisible and you have to bleach every liter of pool water to get it out. CO2 takes about 20 years to mix, so today we can at most reverse the CO2 PPM to 20 years back, if we where reducing it. It is in fact still increasing!

So what about Elon Musk (and his brother Kimbal)’s challenge? Elon says about it

“This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level,” Musk said as he announced the competition as part of the X Prize charity initiative that encourages technological developments that can benefit humanity. “Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence.”

True to form the Musk Charity website has not cost much. It reads in plain text

Musk Foundation

Grants are made in support of:

– Renewable energy research and advocacy
– Human space exploration research and advocacy
– Pediatric research
– Science and engineering education
– Development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity

No application form, no fancy office. We think you just have to have an inspring idea, maybe something already in the works, then you can recieve an anonymous check from the Musks (by some mysterious courrier who arrives in a Tesla). If your goal is to achieve, you don’t motivate people to beg. Let the strong ones get help, and those who can’t get started probably shouldn’t get started.

“To qualify for victory, solutions must be able to extract one ton of CO2 per day, and be viable in a scaled, validated model at time of presentation, with the ability to scale it to “gigaton levels” in commercially viable ways in the future.” (source)

That said it is cool that you can be sure that if you invent and develop a scalable carbon capture technology you can feel confident that you get support. We hope the foundation discourages patents (as is the case with Tesla for basic electric car stuff).

Elon is quoted as saying

“For now, by far the top priority is accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy economy.”

We call that the Roboeconomy.com one in which renewable energy is used to power robots and automated systems both to generate a wealth of products and services but also to restore the ecology where humans would not be capable fast enough.. Dedicated carbon capture facilities or a growing carbon capture industry (combined with humans prospering of them and living with them) would be part of that vision. In dat it makes total sense to look for a way to capture carbon that can be a basis for a small village or city, after all you will be generating a lot of usefull energy and many usefull products are made of hydrogen and carbon (plastics).

We will be on the lookout for projects that get funded. Maybe Musk is interested in kickstarting the Markermeerzonnecentrale.nl, the biggest floating solar power plant that can warrant development of new thin film panels.