Elon Musk $100 Million Carbon Removal XPrize

Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis discuss optimistic views of the future in wide-ranging topics from energy and communications to knowledge and transport, the importance of making humanity an interplanetary species plus the duo will announce the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition.

XPRIZE Carbon Removal is aimed at tackling the biggest threat facing humanity – fighting climate change and rebalancing Earth’s carbon cycle. Funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, this $100M competition is the largest incentive prize in history, an extraordinary milestone.‎

The four-year global competition invites innovators and teams from anywhere on the planet to create and demonstrate solutions that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans, and sequester it durably and sustainably. To win the grand prize, teams must demonstrate a working solution at a scale of at least 1000 tonnes removed per year; model their costs at a scale of 1 million tonnes per year; and show a pathway to achieving a scale of gigatonnes per year in future.

Any carbon-negative solution is eligible: nature-based, direct air capture, oceans, mineralization, or anything else that achieves net negative emissions, sequesters CO2 durably, and show a sustainable path to achieving low cost at gigatonne scale.

Highlights from the talk are SpaceX related.
Elon Musk has the goal of landing both the upper stage Starship and the Super Heavy Booster back on the launch tower. This will enable faster turnarounds and up to three Starship launches per day. There could be a dozen Super Heavy Booster launches per day.

The medium-term goal would be 1000 Starship launches per year from each Starship.

Elon Musk believes that if we are complacent then climate change would be problem.

Elon Musk’s biggest existential risks are Super AI and population collapse.

Elon feels the second biggest risk is birthrates are too low.

Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

58 thoughts on “Elon Musk $100 Million Carbon Removal XPrize”

  1. Haven't been here for a while, but gee, lots of "denial/warming" back and forth, still. Anyway, the Xprize challenge is more or less a lump-sum patent buyout. Winners (and entrants) retain the IP rights, but XPrize has first dibs on licensing rights. Also, prize money payouts is unknown and over 4 years. Run the numbers and any serious inventor who has a workable, scalable, and commercially viable way to remove CO2 from the air should not enter this competition. They are much better off going the typical investor route, or via public funds. They only rational reason for chasing this "prize" is for PR value purposes. One main reason the Xprize Ansari teams spent $100m chasing a $10m prize.

    Regardless of what the debate is on global warming, this "prize" is to me just a scheme to make Musk and XPrize more publicity and ergo more valuable, and more money. But hey, people like winning prizes….

  2. The IPCC has determined that the late 1800s is the "ideal state of the world"

    Well, in terms of men's fashion, possibly.

  3. Calm down a bit and have a think.

    Sure the poles are melting and that will result in higher ocean levels, but it's rising at a rate of about 3-400 mm per century. Even if we double that it would not be a threat to us.

    What is a pity, is the loss of habitat for really cool animals like the polar bear and seals. I am also a big fan of the gorgeous snow leopard, so there is an aesthetic reason to halt carbon emissions. And, I also suspect that with higher temperatures we in the northern hemisphere would also get terrible water parasites that plague Africa, which would remove the fantastic fun of bathing in lakes. Not to mention skiing or just enjoying snow.

    But please, could be stop pretending that it's an existential threat? Humans and humanity will survive, and so will the animals. Just not the nice animals we know now and humans will loose some of the fantastic variation of nature. But again, this is not an existential threat, nor even a threat to economy…

  4. I've seen research which actually took real coral, and put it through changing acidity and temperature.

    Short term adverse consequences, followed by adaptation.

    Hardly surprising when you consider that coral have survived periods with higher water temperatures and higher CO2 levels than we're likely to see in the next few centuries.

  5. As I said, no dispute by reasonable people on the facts, but as I said, much on the desirability of CO2 for example. I don't agree, but recognize the possibility. It is not a *fact* that CO2 is evil totally.

    O'Neill's plans for Space Solar (did you know that was what I was talking about? Have you read O'Neill?) certainly moot the CO2 solution arguments by giving us one. The only best one, btw. Try carefully reading what I write.

  6. "The last geological period we had this much carbon dioxide the ocean was 130 feet higher and world temperature was 2 degrees higher. "

    I'm aware of that, and don't find it particularly terrifying. It has no implications for the survival of technological society, it's not like it would happen over night.

    " I don't see any serious biologist worried about C-3 plants. " Then you're not looking. For instance: That CO2 starvation is a real thing:


    "For that matter, why is the military obsessed with the security dimensions of climate change. "

    It's called "civilian control of the military". If the Executive branch wants the military obsessing over the threat of climate change, and the need to integrate people with gender dysphoria into the ranks, instead of asymmetric warfare, they will be, even if it means we lose our next war.

  7. Reasonable.

    Though, at the end of the day, I suppose it mostly depends upon what kind of world you want and how challenging (and popular, in the democratic sense) it is to get there from here.

    I, for one, believe that a world that offers the most opportunity, wonder, and high-quality Nature diversity is the best for All. This is a high-tech, high-productivity, and rationality-first world with wide acceptance of modification and upgrade of existing organisms and ecosystems. This is a world of more area of Rich (complex) Nature, but a lesser proportion of old school Wild and Conserved Nature (less wild grasslands, more jungle; less arid, more mangrove). This implies widescale human intervention in our existing landscapes to create and improve. This also allows for ongoing and thoughtful industrial/ resource development, dense human habitation exceeding 10B worldwide, and full widespread access. I would guess that this would be for a moderation of CO2 levels rather than a seemingly arbitrary pre-industrial benchmark; thinking the low 400s ppm by mid-century and stabilizing.

    My personal axe to grind in this would be in the minimization of ocean acidification, as I am a diver and plan to move near the ocean below 30-degrees N. .. and my living in Japan for a few months seem to indicate that high tech and relentless presence of humanity can co-exist with rich nature and ancient culture quite well.

  8. The last geological period we had this much carbon dioxide the ocean was 130 feet higher and world temperature was 2 degrees higher. I would rather be obsessed with science-based research than your unsupported position. I don't see any serious biologist worried about C-3 plants. Do you have any sourcing for your position? For that matter, why is the military obsessed with the security dimensions of climate change. Are they just silly?
    At the current rate of growth in CO2, levels will hit 500 ppm within 50 years, putting us on track to reach temperature boosts of perhaps more than 3 degrees C (5.4°F) — a level that climate scientists say would cause bouts of extreme weather and sea level rise that would endanger global food supplies, cause disruptive …Jan 26, 2017

  9. The notion that we are innocent bystanders is going going gone. The power to destroy is the power to replicate. Worlds without end.

  10. The global weirding disputes are a matter of choice as to being in favor of CO2, for example. Only the radically wrong challenge the basic science. Going O'Neill moots most of the arguments. For true scientific evidence directly based upon experiment, of vast importance, worthy of "Educating people or learning to accept evidence" of, see Janov Primal Science.

  11. Agreed. No acid rain from SPSS/sunshades. If the sun is brighter, shade is more. If dimmer, reflect more heat to us…a true type I civilization

  12. "CO2 levels have been trending downward across deep planetary history, as more and more carbon has been sequestered, often irreversible on ordinary geological timescales.

    Temperature has swung wildly up and down, and we're presently in a minor
    inter-glacial period during an ice age. Things do look unusually
    warm… if you compare them to an ice age!"

    That is a very lousy argument. Evidence suggests that current change is man made and not an "ordinary" thing as you want to paint it.

    It is happening much, much faster and it is not natural. Consequences of that changes are very costly. Increased probability of damaging weather events, which reduce GDP and are costly. Increased probability of migrations, because it will become unbearable for people to live there as climate is changing very fast.

    People haven't been living on massive scale in older periods, things like ice age or sudden global warming did not happen over night. Ok if it did happen it was because some extreme event and that resulted in massive extinction.


    I think that this data pretty much destroy your argument. CO2 concentrations are much higher that they would be in ice age – warmer period, way above that upper limit.
    IMO is way too risky to go back to Eocene or even Triassic climate in 100 years. Living conditions were different back there and there were no organized societies, people.

  13. See Criswell LSP at searchanddiscovery for way to make $$$ doing this, starting decades ago. "pretty big threat" requires pretty big response. Any comparable ideas?

  14. If you use the plant material for fuel, it does not remove the C, but also does not add to it as fossil would. Fuel cycles would thus have to be better than solar-H for example, hard to imagine if true costs of growing things on Earth is considered. Impossible compared to Space Solar.

    "need some liquid fuel for planes and cargo ships" this looks big!
    Popular Mechanics The Cryogenic Hydrogen Powertrain That Will Transform Propulsion Caroline Delbert Fri, April 23, 2021

  15. IMO global warming is a pretty big threat and plenty of evidence comes from reliable sources.

    The extreme events here are getting pretty harsh here. So we have more than 20+ degrees Celsius what is above normal for spring and then after sudden change we had few very cold nights about -5 to -10 Celsius just after that and agricultural damages from frost are substantial. We had normal strong winters with enough snow and now we barely have snow at winter, even ski resorts, which are higher up have problems.
    It is pattern of more and more unstable weather, since ice caps are melting. I think that is affecting the stability of air mass and weather is become more and more unstable.

    We didn't have any large forest fires and now they are becoming more and more common,…

    Things like climate can't be easily fixed, no messing around with that. So it is better to loose a little and get c02, methane emissions to more acceptable levels that to loose a lot, when it is too late. You don't need to kill the science and tech for that, just develop more cleaner ways of transport, production. IMO dependance on fossil fuels and oil lobbies, their actions, policies are anti tech so that is one of the biggest problems.

    Even if short term solutions seem costly an will impact GDP, long term consequences of developing cleaner energy,… will be beneficial.

    Look if you want to breathe in carbon monoxide coctail when in trafiic jam so that oil companies can have their profits ok, as you wish.

  16. Musk is wrong about sooo much. But we love him! His "muti-planet" saviour stuff is hilarious when you know about O'Neill. It should be about having people in multiple places, not only planets. His slogan should be changed to "Making civilization Spaced out".

  17. Do not argue meaningless distinctions. There are multiple independent sufficient reasons to do O'Neill starting with Space Solar. Climate change mere very slight possibility may be enuf for you to support O'Neill. It should be. Do you have a better plan?

  18. *Small Worlder*, limits to growth, unaware of O'Neill, or their outlook would be frighteningly plausible! As to riches envy, that is such a separate topic from Space development or even CO2 that is everywhere, seems too vague to get a causation link. Small world wants everybody under their control, not just the rich. Best yet for some, nobody at all. Make everybody happy, live in Space.

  19. The most dangerous power addict is the one with the plausible reason. You can fight the power addiction, or fight the reason, IF it is not really plausible. CO2 is solved by profit making Space Solar, so the *small world* reasoning is FALSE. But most people believe it, not surprisingly given all the coverage O'Neill does not get for over 40 years. I fight both, you are welcome, power addiction with Janov Primal Science, and small world with O'Neill. Both are certain once checked out, both are now, both are needed for survival.

  20. Geoengineering is both fascinating and terrifying. To me, no matter what the perspective, it's quite intriguing. Either it turns out fine, or we ____ ourselves. It's a fun rollercoaster to be on!

  21. If my conversations with the few I know are any indication, they're choosing not to have children because they're expensive and inconvenient, get in the way of a hip urban lifestyle. NOT out of any concern about population pressures.

  22. Yeah, true. Private industry is going to likely realize in short order, anyway, that they can make more from newer, clean technologies than they ever had in the past with dirty ones. So everything is going to change, regardless.

  23. Actually, I see more risk to civilization from the obsession with lowering CO2, than I do from higher CO2.

  24. "You are aware that some warmer geological periods would be more difficult for human civilization?"

    Why, no, I'm not aware of that. I'm also not aware of people drowning because the ocean rises a couple inches a century, and they stand in the same place all that time. Human civilization adapts.

    But if you're really worried, the ideal response to rising CO2 levels is to slightly lower the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface. Something that would be fairly easy to accomplish compared to completely changing the energy basis of our civilization, and is easily reversible if it turns out to have been a bad idea.

    We could even do it selectively, both by wavelength and location, so as to maximize biological productivity while accomplishing it. Put a giant Venetian blind at the Earth/Sun L1 point, and close it a little when the Atlantic or Pacific are facing the Sun. The middles of the ocean are both extremely low albedo, AND largely abiotic, so it's two-fer.

    That way we can control temperatures independent of CO2 level, and get the best of both worlds.

    Oh, yeah coral: They've done tests, it adapts, too.

  25. Ah, you are missing the operator here: People who do not know of O'Neill are deciding to be sterile for utterly irrational reasons. They are not deciding to be sterile in the far future. They are deciding to be sterile NOW. also, i think the *i*talic tag has been replaced by *em*phasis tag.

  26. I have come to the conclusion that "global warming" is a comforting term, pleasant almost, like warm milk. Those in Austin propose "global weirding" as far more accurate.

  27. I think the current times are nice because the ice is melting. It keeps the temp much more steady than otherwise is usu. So, we should decide to keep it as it was when we physically evolved, mostly, and let Nature adjust to that for a few thou, until we make better plans.

  28. The important thing is to retain the power to do these things that we ARE doing. Not just do them, but undo them, or control the situation in more general terms. With power *should* come responsibility. It is silly to talk of clean global energy from renewables w/o Space Solar, and silly to ignore Space Solar as a power source for CO2 control if needed in the future. Silly to ignore shading from Space as as side project of Space Solar. Earth based solutions are like trying to keep the inside of a car in the summer Texas sun cool, from the inside, with batteries that generate heat.

  29. But since Bezos wants orbital habitats à la O'Neill, the carrying capacity of Earth should not matter — we spill the "excess" population to orbit and eventually to other orbits through offering cheap residential space in the cylinders. This, of course, in the far future. In the near future, we will have our hands full with not having the global population pyramid invert and have ourselves the <i>other</i> kind of demographic bomb.

  30. funny-of-funny — there will be a day when the metric of green-concientiousness, arguably 'carbon credits gained', will be solidly dominated by the very rich, the very industrial, the very commercial, and other such shallow capitalistic entities, but not through their shovelling of profit to such post-success 'charitable' (but tax saving) greenie-causes, but simply living and developing the high tech life. What, pray tell, will the tree-huggers and greenpeace warriors riot, provoke, and boycott (where did that word come from?) when the middle-class (but productive) are driving, inhabiting, traveling, and recreating in a carbon-neutral and carbon-negative way, heavily through tech consumption, that has a fundamental understanding of the materials, processes, and production that responds to all 'green' issues. Even such nebulous issues as conservation, simpler living (noble poverty?), community-focus, diversity, animal-rights will be tech-ed away so as to be meaningless. Geez, to be a leftist-activist in 10 years will be the saddest thing.

  31. agreed. but most green tech is not 'tech enough' and is not as much economy-first, environment-second (but never forgotten). Better to make a mess (with intentions of growth, knowledge, and advance) and clean it up after through tech (for profit) -than- to leave alone and go on unenriched in fear of unanticipated consequences (within reason). Its about risk-tolerance and believing that technology can, eventually, solve and improve everything – with the alternative being slowly declining stagnation. The pecking order for appropriateness is: 1) Human civilization, 2) Humans as individuals, 3) Nature as system, 4) Natural things as individuals, species, families, and localized systems. Consider All, but prioritize such with each new invention and project.

  32. By the way, the last time the earth had this much carbon dioxide the ocean was 130 feet higher. If you are living near the coast, don't plan on fleeing to Montana. We warmists believe you denialists will only be getting your just desserts. Also, claiming to save c 3 plants seems kind of weeny.

  33. It seems to me that green tech is certainly not anti tech. Now, if I was a Russian or a Saudi bound to antiquated fossil-fuel technology, I might be more concerned about the Paris Agreement.

  34. So you support the coal-burning monster trucks if they burn coal more cleanly? You are aware that some warmer geological periods would be more difficult for human civilization? Also, with the sun getting brighter, we probably have a billion years before the Venus scenario occurs. But we probably want to avoid any earlier runaway events or adverse climate effects if we can. Full disclosure: I'm not in the extraction industries.

  35. but you have to admit, that there are many more earth-scale mechanisms affected by varying CO2 levels that have significant risk to civilization than just saving a bunch of plants from suffocating. Also, humanity can do what it wants; why allow the atmospheric CO2 levels to determine our direction – we can 'tech' our way out of (and into) anything? It seems a fair political concession to let ppm levels be set and just keep moving forward to drive, design, build, make, and consume our way to a better society (and natural environment) anyway. We are beyond most anti-progress Movements at this stage.

  36. Not sure he wants a higher rate as much as a rate high enuf to avoid collapse. Bezos would want the actually exponential rate most are afraid of.

  37. Tech and eco-culture are not at Odds – though their has to be quantification of the risks and inputs into such tech. Key Idea: is the onus on tech to prove safety and eco-sensitivity -or- NGOs and their ilk to prove that something is bad — the spectrum should lean toward proving something is bad (take some risk) rather than insisting on Industry to prove that it is Good (eco-, progressive-, woke-, etc)

  38. Its not political. The forefront of research and development now includes cost effectiveness and material/production eco-sensitivity. This was a tech problem, not a cultural problem, as many would frame it.
    Interesting that Musk embraces a higher birth rate — curious but tentatively agree?

  39. Irony of All Ironies that hyper-Tech saves the world not 'Industrial' dismantlement and greenie-weanie Gaia worship. Nature and ecology and meteorology are all physical manifestations that can be understood and upgraded, we need only seek to know and qualify our actions thoughtfully.

  40. Agreed. This is the Dems and Biden's last Term to attempt to create a morass of restriction and stifling taxation on productive (but not necessarily as clean as it could be) industry. Private industry will push foward with development of all things mobility, health, and exploration/discovery.

  41. I will not embrace anything that reduces productivity, disables industry, or limits growth and opportunity. A Less is More world is the worst of all things. Man is smarter than Nature and will provide a solution that is more efficient and effective at creating a new balance – whatever that is. Pulling Back or taxing Success is not an Option.

  42. The IPCC has determined that the late 1800s is the "ideal state of the world" and that the pre(sort of)-industrial is the CO2 level (~290ppm) that is right, appropriate, and our sole & focussed goal. This is self-righteous and arbitray, in my opinion. It is likely not even a level that would lead to the most abundant agriculture, eco-system density, and species quantity/quality. The major countries and sectors have overwhelmingly 'bent the knee' to such a limit. This is water under the bridge. Why fight it? Principle?
    Society will create a new and better agriculture, new and better Nature, and continue to prosper Irregardless, though likely less quickly and more regulatorily-encumbered with such limits. We are now fully into the so-called Anthropocene. We are the Masters of our own Destiny and that of many Others. We move forward as technological shapers Better as a united Front of technocrats, bent on reforming culture based on logic, rationality, and embracing the New. We have weathered those who want to reduce populations, outlaw cars, diminsh energy, and otherwise create a Less is More' world. We have won and need only develop under these new constraints. The Paris Agreement is simplistic and wrong-headed, but it serves to placate a scared and regressive culture of anti-industrial/ anti-tech.
    Trudge on and don't look back on such misguided, sentamentalistic regulations.

  43. We already have machines that can remove Carbon from the atmosphere they are called plants. I think we are going to need some liquid fuel for planes and cargo ships. We can either grow plants to generate the fuel or use solar or wind over generation to do so. Just of to work on getting the price down. Maybe a subsidy at the start to be phased out after 10 years or so. The subsidy could be paid for by a carbon tax.

  44. Oh, come on, be serious: Those black clouds are unburnt carbon, soot. If you're efficiently returning carbon to the biosphere as CO2, the exhaust is clear.

    Genuinely serious: We don't have enough sequestered carbon to turn the Earth into Venus, or Earth would already have been Venus, and the carbon would never have been sequestered in the first place.

    "Warmists" typically restrict their inspection of the climate record to the relatively near past, both in regards to temperatures and CO2 levels.

    CO2 levels have been trending downward across deep planetary history, as more and more carbon has been sequestered, often irreversible on ordinary geological timescales.

    Temperature has swung wildly up and down, and we're presently in a minor inter-glacial period during an ice age. Things do look unusually warm… if you compare them to an ice age!

  45. Yes, why not do it deliberately? Just imagine millions of monster trucks that are designed to burn coal. Every child would be excited watching a monster truck spewing black clouds of C-3-saving CO2 as it passed by. I think something like this produced the wonderful biosphere vacationers enjoy on Venus.

  46. If you ask me, we ARE rebalancing global CO2. We're restoring all that sequestered carbon to the biosphere, saving C-3 plants from CO2 starvation.

    If we weren't doing that incidentally, it would have been worth doing deliberately.

  47. Ha, he wants to give his degrowther critics an apoplectic fit.

    They already can barely acknowledge that Musk, besides of trying to move humanity to space, also leads the low/no CO2 car revolution with Tesla.

    Musk becoming the lead on carbon capture will make their heads explode. No other reason to hate him but for his riches (which is the real reason).

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