Woodcache PBC

We should all fight our prejudices


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At Climate Week San Francisco last week my colleagues met lots of people interested in fighting rapid climate change through Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).  The interested parties included CDR investors, CDR buyers, CDR-supporting governments, CDR pundits, CDR scientists and members of the general public.  They all want to do good for the planet, but are concerned about supporting the “wrong” CDR pathways.  Fear, Uncertainty and Dread (FUD) rule the day.  

Let’s eliminate the FUD!

A thousand miles to the east, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, my colleagues at Woodcache PBC and I stand ready to deliver quality, durable, inexpensive Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) following the Woody Biomass Storage (WBS) methodology.  From our point of view we have proven technology and process.  We are prepared to receive support from many sources and deliver robust financial and social returns.  

Why the gap between these interested parties and CDR producers such as Woodcache PBC?  Clearly there is still misalignment between what interested parties are “buying” and what producers are “selling”.  My opinion is that much more alignment can be created by putting aside prejudices .  To all of you working somewhere in the  CDR-supporting community, I propose we all put some of these aside, jump in the pool, and get to work fighting climate change.  

Here is my humble (and hopefully helpful) wish list:  I present a frequently rehearsed prejudice I hear, describe why it is misguided, and suggest an alternative way of thinking.  I hope you’ll think about these and meet me in the middle!

Your CDR project must be SOLD OUT before we support it.  This is frustrating because there are only a handful of large CDR buyers out there, and only some of those buy credits in advance.  By contrast there are hundreds of quality CDR suppliers.  Over time we all know that the difference between CDR supply and CDR demand is temporary, based at worst on a timing difference.  Within a few months or years, CDR demand will outstrip supply, but future supply must be built today.  Many of us stand ready to go, but await fair investment from a variety of sources.  Let’s compromise and agree that projects being built today are necessary to fill future demand, and many kinds of investors can earn generous rewards.  

You must prove your CDR technology is BETTER than other CDR technologies.  This is frustrating because it asks for proof of an unknown.  Let’s admit that no one knows the best CDR technology, nor will we for many decades.  I take that back:  We may NEVER know the best CDR technology, and we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we invest in only one technology.  So let’s compromise and consider whether a CDR technology or pathway is good or not, based on its own merits.     

You must prove your CDR technology is a better use of RESOURCES than others.  In the case of WBS this is frustrating because the most common use of wastewood as a feedstock is literally NOTHING, leaving it in the forest to decompose.  Anyone, driving through any mountain pass in the US Mountain West knows this is so.  Worse, the second most common use of wastewood is to literally BURN IT, returning greenhouse gasses into the air immediately.  SOME DAY, when there is a scarcity of wastewood, and various uses compete for this supply, the BEST use of wastewood may become a legitimate concern, but for the coming several years to a decade, it is not.  Let’s compromise and instead consider whether feedstock used in CDR is sustainably and responsibly sourced, and worry about the most efficient use when the feedstock is scarce.  .  

You must prove your CDR technology is PERMANENT.  This is frustrating because no CDR technology is permanent.  Even the ones that purport to be permanent, like Deep Earth Injection (DEI) are not proven to be permanent, and carry risks of leakage and re-emission.  Let’s compromise and use the term “durable” to distinguish it from non-durable, and forget about “permanent.”. 

You must achieve certain DURABILITY to be considered legitimate.  (Sounds odd because I just argued for “durability” over “permanence”)  We all know that durability is a lousy proxy for useful and effective CDR, and we use it because we have not yet explored more robust and sophisticated measurements.  Saying something is durable beyond 1,000 years and is therefore good is just lazy thinking.  Let’s compromise and think about what we are trying to accomplish the term durability, and together invent a better way to universally capture that intent. 

You must CONFORM with a central plan.  A set of high level reports and databases are emerging describing the best CDR approaches given a set of local conditions such as natural resource availability, workforce, and existing industries.  This is good for informational purposes, but let’s not allow the reports to exert any kind of  orthodoxy.  Let’s instead compromise and consider these helpful analyses, but in no way consider them prescriptive of what should happen.  Just like the local weather report, they are directional of what might happen, but in no way predictive of what WILL happen.

You must not DISRUPT any existing supply chains.  This is the toughest to overcome because we have all observed harmful market failures, and we are accustomed to stability.  What we often forget is that disruption can and has been the source of a lot of good.  Simple example:  What if a new market for wastewood caused landowners to plant and maintain more forests, rather than cutting down old growth forests and selling these treasured trees as wastewood?  I personally think the former is more likely than the latter, and is more likely to lead to good than bad.  Let’s compromise and address market failures as they appear on the horizon, rather than legislating against predicted bad behavior.  

Woodcache PBC and other CDR producers are ready to meet you in the middle!  Together we can make a real, lasting, positive impact on our climate.  

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