SQUAMISH, British Columbia — Everyone knows an electric fan can make people feel cooler on a steamy day. But could fans moderate the planet’s rising temperatures?
Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies would like to find out.
Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and the Australian mining giant BHP this year have invested in Carbon Engineering, a small Canadian company that claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough in solving a critical climate change puzzle: removing carbon already in the atmosphere.
At its pilot project in Squamish, an old lumber town about 30 miles north of Vancouver, the company is using an enormous fan to suck large amounts of air into a scrubbing vessel designed to extract carbon dioxide. The gas can then be buried or converted into a clean-burning — though expensive — synthetic fuel.
Investing in Carbon Engineering and other carbon-reduction initiatives is part of an emerging effort by fossil-fuel industries to remain relevant and profitable in a warming world. With electric cars and solar and wind power becoming increasingly affordable, executives acknowledge that business as usual could put their companies at risk.
Of course, big energy companies continue to drill for oil and gas and are pushing the Trump administration and other governments to open more territory to exploration.
But some businesses have signaled that they are changing. A few companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP, are linking compensation to emissions reductions.
Chevron and Occidental, which have each taken seats on Carbon Engineering’s board, refused to disclose their investments. The company said it raised $68 million in its most recent funding round to expand the pilot and develop its first commercial plant.