Climate change affects New Mexico more seriously than many states. As the sixth fastest warming US state, we are experiencing earlier springs, hotter summers, larger wildfires and more intense droughts. We in Washington urge our leaders to act with strong incentives for new federal policies and climate solutions, such as carbon dioxide removal (CDR), that create opportunities to protect our planet and grow our economy.
we can not afford. Every study, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academies, indicates that we must manage to achieve ambitious emissions reductions as well as massive removal of excess CO2 from our atmosphere. The Biden administration has underscored this important role for the CDR in its climate strategy.
The exciting thing is that New Mexico is already in a leading position in carbon removal and storage. Carbon storage research – ongoing at New Mexico Tech for the past 17 years – has identified 10 gigatonnes of CO2 storage in deep saline aquifers and equivalent storage in depleting oil fields. Our good geologic luck could provide thousands of well-paying jobs for New Mexicans in the growing carbon management industry and resuscitate trained workers from the oil and gas industries.
Carbon dioxide removal techniques such as Direct Air Capture (DAC) draw excess CO2 from ambient air and store it safely underground or reuse it in products. With natural solutions like planting more trees and adopting agricultural practices to store more CO2 in the soil, the DAC is an important and complementary tool in our climate toolbox. But we will need far greater investments in research, development and deployment to scale DAC technology when we need it most. The University of New Mexico and national laboratories are excellent incubators for the solutions developed in New Mexico.
At New Mexico Tech, my team studies ways to efficiently and safely store captured CO2. Injected into geological formations more than a mile above Earth’s surface, carbon is permanently trapped in the bedrock where it eventually mineralizes, becoming more dense and protected over time. New Mexico is prime real estate for these underground structures and has more existing infrastructure that can be repurposed to store carbon than any other state.
This huge capacity of CO2 storage will provide tremendous benefits to the economy of the state. Recent analysis has concluded that DACs will create hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction and plant operations, as well as drilling wells and fluid capture from the point of storage to the point of storage.
We will need all practical decks to commercialize DACs and carbon storage. United Airlines, Microsoft and a large number of corporations are investing in DACs, and Tesla founders Elon Musk and XPRIZE are offering a $100 million bounty for the best CDR technology. But it is only a fraction of the investment required. A challenge as big as climate change requires massive research efforts that only national initiatives can mobilize. Policy makers should create strong incentives for more private sector deployment. Not so long ago, solar and wind power were in the same early stages of development, and just like renewable energy, DAC can be scaled up.
Our leaders in New Mexico and Washington have a ripe opportunity to advance carbon removal and storage while revitalizing our economy and creating the jobs of the future. By pursuing policies that encourage and invest in CDRs, New Mexicans will benefit from both climate stability and economic opportunity at home.