Bill Gates-Backed Startup Seeks Taxpayer Subsidies to Wrap Sawdust in Polymer and Bury It Underground

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A Bill Gates-backed startup is charging American Airlines $100 per metric ton to eliminate 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and will seek government subsidies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The startup is called Graphyte, and it gathers agricultural residues like sawdust or tree bark that naturally soak up carbon dioxide, according to the Journal. Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures backs Graphyte, which intends to seek funding from a newly launched U.S. government initiative that purchases carbon-removal credits.

American Airlines will be Graphyte’s first client, according to a press release about the deal. The deal is purportedly a more cost-effective method for reducing carbon emissions than sustainable aviation jet fuel, according to the WSJ.

“American is focused on accelerating new low-carbon technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact,” American Airlines Chief Sustainability Officer Jill Blickstein stated in the press release. “Hard to abate industries like aviation will need high-quality, permanent, affordable and scalable carbon credits — including removals — to achieve our emissions reduction goals. We are excited to work with Graphyte to help them scale their important new technology.”

Graphyte has a facility in Arkansas that will use “crop and wood residues that have already captured significant CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis,” according to the press release. “The biomass is then dried to prevent decomposition, converted into dense carbon blocks, wrapped in an environmentally safe polymer barrier, and monitored in a state-of-the-art underground storage facility.”

The startup believes this technology “provides an immediate pathway for billions of tons of low-cost carbon removal.”

Graphyte is planning on producing enough of its carbon removal technology to hold 50,000 metric tons of carbon each year. American Airlines emitted 49 million metric tons of carbon in 2022, according to its sustainability report.

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