Fueling a better future

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Greek mythology and climate change

Welcome back for a new article! I hope your week is off to a great start and that you had a lovely weekend. If you’re like me, weekends might be associated with waking up slightly hungover and getting constant reminders from your parents about the long-term health impacts of drinking.

For health and climate change alike, it’s hard to foresee how our daily decisions impact the future. How will one more pint impact our liver in the long run? For Prometheus, imagine what it would have felt like to have your liver eaten by an eagle every day!

In Greek mythology, the titan Prometheus is known for stealing fire from the gods in order to gift it to humanity. A vengeful Zeus punished Prometheus to be chained to a rock where an eagle would come every day to tear a part of his liver, providing eternal torment.

When it comes to climate change, we have been misusing the fire given to us and, unlike Prometheus’ liver, the resources we consume are not in unlimited supply.

Addressing the elephant in the room

The first human to discover the greenhouse gas effect and that CO2 could warm the atmosphere was Eunice Foote in 1856. By putting carbon dioxide and air in two separate cylinders exposed to sunlight, she discovered that the receiver containing carbon dioxide heated much more and took longer to cool.

When it comes to climate change, it is indisputable that human emissions of greenhouse gases have been the primary driver. With a 1.1℃ increase in global average temperatures since pre-industrial levels, the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in the last 800,000 years.

While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have historically fluctuated, the levels attained and their speed of change since the industrial revolution is unprecedented, with the main culprit being fossil fuels.

Since 1850, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes have increased more than 174 fold, from 0.2 billion metric tons to 34.81 in 2020. Additionally, 78% of the emissions increase over the past 5 decades can be tied to the aforementioned sectors.

The reality with climate change is that we are up against the clock. If we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we have a little over 7 years to drastically reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases.

With world energy consumption expected to grow by 50% by 2050 and fossil fuels representing 80% of energy production currently, it is hard to reconcile how we will meet the climate timeline. However, what if we could produce energy out of thin air?

Giving humanity the gifts of fire and hope

The Greek titan Prometheus stood for human progress in the face of nature’s forces, which is arguably what Prometheus Fuels are looking to achieve. Founded by Rob McGinnis, they are on a mission to replace all Oil & Gas fuels with net-zero carbon fuels.

Prometheus uses Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology to pull CO2 from the air. Once the CO2 is absorbed, it is charged with electricity from renewable sources to form hydrocarbons which can be transformed into any type of fuel.

Critics of DAC often argue that it can give the Oil & Gas industry a social license to operate by enabling them to do business as usual. However, Prometheus stand strictly opposed to this use of DAC technology and is positioning itself as a solution to replace fossil fuels altogether.

Traditional DAC technologies will look to capture the CO2 and bury it into the ground, producing very little economic value. On the other hand, Prometheus is working to remove the need for additional drilling of oil and gas by producing fuel from what can already be found in the air.

Launched at Y Combinator, the company has since then become a unicorn valued at $1.5bn. They have received backing from Maersk and BMW, while American Airlines has committed to purchasing 10 million gallons of fuel from Prometheus by 2025. Such support from fuel-dependent giants says a lot about where they think the industry is going!

There is so much more to unpack when it comes to how Prometheus Fuels are leveraging DAC technology and how they are looking to disrupt the fuel industry. Whether this article leaves you feeling enthusiastic or sceptical, I would encourage you to do your own research and to let me know what you think. Personally, I’m going for stubborn optimism when it comes to climate change.

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Pierre-Louis Godin

Pierre-Louis Godin

Always looking to learn more about environmental sustainability and climate change. I'll mostly be writing about these topics!