Can bio-oil truly combat climate change, and what does Big Tech know that we don’t?

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A group of tech companies including Alphabet, Meta, Stripe, Shopify, and McKinsey Sustainability have agreed to pay startup Charm Industrial $53m to capture and store 112,000 tons of carbon dioxide as bio-oil made from discarded corn stalks and branches. Charm’s reactors heat the agricultural and forestry waste to 500 degrees Celsius without burning it, creating bio-oil that resembles liquid smoke. This watery part of the oil holds CO2 absorbed for photosynthesis, which Charm aims to store underground to prevent the creation of further emissions. The startup has already stored over 6,100 metric tons of CO2, but scaling up to meet the group’s demands will require producing many of the pyrolyzers it employs itself and ensuring its wells do not leak bio-oil. Furthermore, the process will only result in negative emissions if the waste used would otherwise have gone to rot or burn. Companies may prefer carbon removal to investment in clean energy due to prohibitive costs, but environmental advocates argue the latter is the priority.

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