EXPRESS #2 - September 18, 2018
Ramez Naam invests in blockchain marketplace for carbon removal projects – should you do so too?
In his usual straightforward style, the well-known American author, investor and futurist Ramez Naam (we published a series of articles by him on Energy Post in 2016), has announced that he has made an invested in blockchain company Nori – and he thinks you should do so too.
“Over the last two years, as both an angel investor and a public speaker on energy and climate, I’ve looked at at least a few dozen startups and proposals on how to use blockchain in energy or climate.
I’ve passed on all of them”, writes Naam. “Until now.”
“Over the past few months I’ve been talking with the founders of Nori”, explains Naam. “This summer, I agreed to come onboard as an advisor. In addition to that, I’m investing my own money in the Nori presale.”
According to Naam, “Nori is a transparent marketplace for people and companies to fund the removal of carbon from the air — something we simply have to do if we’re going to limit climate change to safe levels. Nori starts with incredibly simple, low cost ways of removing carbon from the air. The very first carbon removal method in the market will be soil carbon capture — ways that farmers, at extremely low cost (~$3/ton) can change their practices so that their land absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and holds it in the soil. From there, Nori will move into other methods, starting with the cheapest methods that can absorb the most carbon.”
“Most importantly to me”, says Naam, “Nori solves critical problems with current carbon offset systems. Every ton of carbon removed by Nori is a real ton sucked out of the atmosphere — not a theoretical offset that might or might not matter. And Nori’s blockchain makes every ton of carbon removal accountable and transparent — every ton removed can be tracked back to a specific project at a specific location that’s been verified by a specific investor.”
Naam notes that “the good news” is that “momentum is slowly building for offsetting carbon emissions, and on the technology and policies that support removing carbon from the atmosphere.”
He gives three examples:
- Tax credits for carbon capture. In 2018, the US Congress passed a tax credit for carbon removal from the atmosphere, that should help bootstrap the industry.
- Industrial scale carbon capture machines. In June, scientists published an analysis that industrial-scale machines could remove carbon from the air at $100/ton. (Other methods, like soil capture and planting trees, are much much cheaper. But industrial scale capture could scale to as much carbon as we want — it’s a good backstop.)
- Lyft and other companies voluntarily offsetting carbon emissions. In April, Lyft announced that it would offset the carbon emissions from every passenger ride in the US. Lyft joins a host of tech companies — like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft — that are committing to being carbon neutral through a combination of clean energy and carbon offsets.
Nevertheless, Naam adds that “current carbon offset markets have some serious problems”:
- They’re not transparent. If you buy an offset, you typically can’t see exactly what your purchase funded.
- Most offsets are hypothetical. You can pay for an offset by funding more energy efficiency at a polluting factory, for example. But many of those efficiency improvements would have been made anyway, for purely economic reasons.
Nori, says Naam, solves these problems in two ways.
- Nori’s marketplace only lists actual removal from the air, and not hypothetical offsets. 1 Nori token pays for the removal of one ton of CO2 (or equivalent in other greenhouse gases) from the atmosphere. No hypothetical future reductions. Only actual removal.
- Nori uses blockchain to make carbon removal transparent and accountable. Because of the structure of blockchain, where every transaction is kept immutable and viewable by everyone with access to the blockchain, every ton of carbon removed from the air can be traced back to the specific project and location, and what human inspector verified it.