Profiles in Carbon Removal: Tom Price

Happy November CCR followers! Welcome to the monthly series on our blog called "Profiles in Carbon Removal". Here, we share stories about individuals working on carbon removal. Meet Tom Price. Tom focuses on fighting climate change and improving energy access through his work with All Power Labs. 

Read his answers to our questions below! 

Center for Carbon Removal: What inspired you to get involved in carbon removal?

Tom Price: I used to be a freelance journalist, and got an assignment to go to Tuvalu to report on that Pacific Island nation’s loosing fight with climate change. At the time no one believed that sea level rise was happening. While there, I interviewed an old man on the porch of his thatched hut, who said when he was a boy the lagoon used to be about 300 feet away. As he spoke, the lagoon was lapping at the back corner of his house. This disconnect badly spooked me and I thought, "what if this guy’s right, and they are wrong?"  It completely changed the course of my life. Fast forward 13 years: that same magazine is writing about my current work on climate and carbon removal.

CCR: What are you working on in relation to carbon removal today?

TP: Our company, All Power Labs, designs and builds biomass gasifiers. These gasifiers turn organic waste like wood chips and corn cobs into an on-demand, renewable, carbon-negative energy. Gasification is an old, but largely forgotten, technology — turning a solid material into vapor that can power various energy systems, including a regular car engine. This versatility allows us to connect the largest system of harvesting energy and carbon on the planet — plants — with the largest system for using energy on the planet — the internal combustion engine. Fortunately for all of us, gasification is an imperfect process, so about 5-10% of the embedded carbon gets captured in the form of something called biochar. We can put it in the ground and sequester it, and/or use it for useful things like fertilizers or filters. This process is one of more market-ready ways of getting carbon out of the atmospheric system, and it can help us turn problems, like California’s forest health crisis, into solutions.

  All Power Labs  with their biomass gasifier at VERGE 2013 in San Francisco. 

All Power Labs with their biomass gasifier at VERGE 2013 in San Francisco. 

CCR: What is the one thing that you are most excited about in the carbon removal field today?

TP: The diversity! There are so many great approaches, startups, and faces now in this space. It’s really quite jarring — when we were in Paris at COP21 last December, the conversation was all about limiting emissions, and just six months later at CEM7 it was beginning to incorporate removal. From hardly being part of the conversation a year ago, it has really begun to shift the conversation among early adopters, and from there it will only spread.  I credit CCR for much of that.  

CCR: What's one thing you'd like to see the carbon removal community be doing differently?

TP: Two things: 1) Stop arguing with people that don’t agree climate change is happening. We literally don’t have time to even talk to those people. Find our allies, the ones that want to DO something, and empower them. 2) Make sure that carbon removal becomes adopted in addition to lowering carbon emissions, in all your conversations/articles/work/plans. The limits approach is not nearly enough. We need to shift the conversation to: what will make the [CO2 PPM] number go down?

CCR: What do you need in order to achieve your goals for carbon removal?

TP: The hardest thing for us is for people to learn that we even exist. When people think about renewable energy, they think solar and wind, maybe hydro. But we can pave the planet with solar panels and it won’t remove a single gram of carbon from the atmosphere. Yes, we absolutely need to stop making things worse, and solar is the best tool for doing that. We also need to actively start pulling carbon out of the sky, and our work can be a part of that. So for us, it’s word of mouth; it’s doing demonstrations; it’s letting people know that we can solve the twin challenges of energy access and climate change at the same time.

You can contact Tom and learn more by visiting: @tomprice or @allpowerlabs on Twitter, the All Power Labs website, and on LinkedIn.