President Joe Biden has pledged to cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He intends to meet this ambitious goal through a wave of new federal spending and government programs.
But our best hope for reducing carbon emissions is not new government spending. It is a radical technological change, one that can only come from the private sector.
In fact, the government is slowing progress against climate change by imposing regulations that prevent emission reduction technologies from reaching the market. If our leaders really want to save the planet, they must get out of the way of the entrepreneurs who really can.
One would expect the government to adopt technology with the potential to reduce carbon pollution. After all, Biden himself has promised “stimulate American technological innovations”As part of its climate agenda.
Unfortunately, some of the most promising green technology advancements face strong headwinds as a result of misguided or outdated federal policies.
One of those technologies, outlined in “They say it can’t be done, ”A new documentary on the relationship between innovators and regulations – se an artificial tree developed by physicist and engineer Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University. These artificial trees contain a special plastic resin that can absorb carbon dioxide and release it when submerged in water. They are 1,000 times more effective at absorbing carbon dioxide from the air than natural trees. Once captured, this carbon dioxide can be recovered and turned into fuel.
Lackner’s design could be expanded to produce units that each remove one metric ton of carbon dioxide per day. The main obstacle is the lack of clear regulations around carbon capture technologies, specifically the transport and storage of captured carbon.
Until a uniform federal framework is in place, the process of bringing this technology to market will remain incredibly complicated and full of risk.
Or consider technologies that could reduce the need for large-scale farming. Raising billions of chickens, pigs, and cattle requires large amounts of water, food, and land. The resulting carbon footprint is huge: roughly 7.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year.
In this case too, new technologies could help reduce emissions. Researchers are designing cell culture meat: chicken, pork and beef produced in the laboratory rather than in the feedlot. This lab-grown protein it is safe, healthy and much less carbon intensive than traditional farmed meat.
A startup that makes lab-grown meat, Eat Just, recently sourced approval sell their cell culture chicken in Singapore. But it is still waiting for the green light from US regulators. According to the founder of the firm, it could be another year, or more, before US approval arrives.
For an industry as capital-intensive as cultured meat production, this slow approval process can make it impossible for a startup to launch and bring its products to market.
High-tech solutions like these are precisely what is needed to protect our planet from the threat of climate change. While it’s impossible to say whether lab-grown meat is the future of sustainable food or whether artificial trees are the best solution for sequestering atmospheric carbon, an accessible and level regulatory playing field allows the best innovations to flourish.
Too many Americans believe that when it comes to climate change, only the government is up to the task. The fact is that the main barrier to large-scale adoption of sustainable technologies is not a lack of government involvement, but too much, or at least the wrong kind.
To fulfill his promise to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, the president and his team will need to recognize how the government obstructs the development and deployment of technology that can deliver on that promise.