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Meeting our net-zero goals will require the deployment of emissions reducing technologies and pathways for directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For the latter category, innovation and funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law have the United States on a trajectory towards global leadership in deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, including direct air capture (DAC), but gaps remain to effectively scale these solutions. In this context, a bipartisan conversation surrounding the role of the federal government in purchasing carbon removal services has emerged, ultimately leading to congressional direction for the Department of Energy to “establish a competitive purchasing pilot program for the purchase of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere or upper hydrosphere” as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations omnibus bill.
With this new pilot program to procure CDR services, DOE can provide needed demand-side support for the carbon removal industry to catalyze investment and reach gigaton scale. Critical design decisions will determine the program’s effectiveness at scaling up the carbon removal industry and the type of carbon removal projects that will receive private sector investment.
To inform DOE and Congress in the effective design of the pilot CDR procurement program, the Bipartisan Policy Center convened a private, off-the-record workshop with NGOs and industry stakeholders familiar with the intricacies of procuring CDR services. The workshop included a discussion on goals and design characteristics of the procurement program, with questions about how to best leverage private sector expertise and catalyze additional investments to multiply federal dollars spent. While there was no consensus position among all participants, the following categories reflect considerations brought up during the discussion.