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Carbon tax should fund CO2 removal, says CEO of 'mechanical trees' firm


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The CEO of an Irish business that is developing 'mechanical trees' that suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air says that all carbon tax revenues - which amounted to €400m last year - should be used to fund such technology.

Pól Ó'Móráin, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at Xerox who is CEO of Dublin-headquartered Silicon Kingdom Holdings (SKH), says the money should be used "to create a carbon disposal industry, rather than to supplement green initiatives such as cycleways, cleaner transport and electric vehicle subsidies".

SKH, which is chaired by serial investor John McKeon, is working with Prof Klaus Lackner at Arizona State University, who is a pioneer in direct air capture (DAC) technology used by mechanical trees. The process captures and recycles CO2, or it can be safely disposed of in depleted oil and gas wells.

"A carbon management and disposal industry can play a significant role in job creation, enhancing Ireland's environmental leadership credentials, driving research and innovation and contributing to regional development," said Ó'Móráin.

"It offers an additional opportunity, through the combination of captured carbon dioxide with hydrogen, also using offshore wind resources here - to produce cleaner-burning synthetic renewable fuels which are compatible with today's engines and aircraft.

"The Government should dedicate at least one of the proposed new Science Foundation Ireland research centres to sustainability and energy alternatives, including carbon disposal and management."

SKH will have its first mechanical tree installed in Arizona by October, with two small carbon farms early next year, each capturing 30 tons a day.

It would take 1,200 trees to suck 100 tons a day of CO2 from the atmosphere, at a cost of about $100 (€89) a ton.

Around 120,000 of them, covering about a square mile, would absorb 3.6m tons a year - the same as 800,000 cars emit.

And €400m would fund the removal of 4.49m tons of CO2, about 7.5pc of Ireland's total annual emissions of 60.5m tons. This is also, roughly, equivalent to the 7pc emissions reduction target in the new Programme for Government that has been agreed by the Greens, Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael.

CO2 removal tech is also being funded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates - who backs Canadian firm Carbon Engineering - and the Stripe founders the Collison brothers, who have pledged $1m to back a variety of CO2 removal methods.

Sunday Indo Business