Carbon is the new black gold: capital is rushing to back schemes promising to harvest carbon from the air.

Dimensional Energy, a start-up populated with Cornell University faculty, is touting its method of combining sunlight and CO2 to make methanol. Carbicrete in Montreal has just landed funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to build a pilot plant for its process of using CO2 and slag waste from steel-making to produce concrete-like blocks. Global Thermostat is building an Alabama plant that will capture CO2 to make plastic bottles, among other uses.

Switzerland’s ClimeWorks’ machines draw CO2 out of the air and sell it to soft-drink makers and greenhouses to feed to plants. CarbonCure sucks CO2 from the air and infuses it into cement, the main ingredient in concrete. The company says that, so far, it’s locked up more than a million pounds of CO2 into concrete, the equivalent of 57,000 acres of forest inhaling carbon for a year. 

Among California ventures, Opus 12 is marketing a device that bolts onto smokestacks and other sources of CO2 emissions and, using just water and electricity, can turn the gas into a variety of industrial chemicals. It’s lined up $1 million in funds to supply gases to in San Francisco. Air Protein claims to be able to use recovered CO2 to make protein-enriched pasta and meatless burgers.

Former U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz is part of the nonprofit Energy Futures Initiative, which backs a $10.7-billion plan over ten years to pull CO2 out of the air and lock it away underground or in special vaults – a project that would require a catalog of new technologies – and private equity fund manager David Elenowitz has sunk $50 million of his own money into Zero Carbon Partners, a new investment firm backing carbontech.

TRENDPOST: With humans sending more than 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, there’s a bumper crop waiting to be harvested. Some invest out of a concern to reduce greenhouse gases; others are in it purely for profit. Regardless of the motive, early investors will have the best chance to reap big rewards from a field that promises to grow through 2030 and beyond.

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