Amazon wants to give hundreds of millions of dollars to oil companies for carbon removal

The Verge reports that Amazon has recently made a commitment to 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, to purchase 250,000 metric tons of atmospheric carbon removal over the next decade:

1PointFive, the subsidiary of Occidental, has plans to build massive industrial facilities, called direct air capture (DAC) plants, in Texas that are supposed to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Amazon says that the CO2 will then be sequestered underground to keep it from escaping back into the atmosphere. Occidental, however, has also used carbon removal to sell what it calls "net-zero oil," produced by shooting CO2 into the ground in order to push out hard-to-reach oil reserves.


Amazon's announcement today is a pretty big purchase for the burgeoning carbon removal industry, but it still represents a fraction of the company's greenhouse gas emissions. By The Verge's estimate, Amazon's purchase from 1PointFive could add up to as much as $150,000,000 (direct air capture typically costs around $600 per ton of CO2, although policymakers are trying to bring that price down with incentives). Occidental also plans to use Amazon Web Services to "analyze real-time performance data and optimize operations" at its future DAC plants.

This follows on reports from last summer that Amazon's carbon emissions had increased by 40 percent—although the company still insisted it was "on track" to reach "net zero" by 2040. Paying $150 million dollars to an oil company could be one way to help get it there. Maybe.

Still, you might be wondering: why pay $150 million to an oil company to remove the atmospheric carbon produced by the very same product that they sold you in the first place? And how is that different from a mob protection racket, where you pay them to protect you from kicking your ass?

What if, instead of handing even more profits over to the fossil fuel industry, we just, ya know, further invested in sustainable energy? Then we wouldn't have to pay for a speculative clean-up process that'll likely be as useful as other carbon offset programs—which is to say, not very. Of course, that would also mean robbing those poor Big Oil executives of the opportunity to increase their profit margins without having to change their basic business model which get us into this god damn climate crisis in the first place.

But I digress. Because the US government has also invested several billion dollars into Direct Air Capture carbon removal processing plants, like this new giant one in Texas. Surely that money could have been better spent elsewhere?

Amazon will pay an oil company to help it meet climate goals [Justine Calma / Amazon]

The world's biggest carbon capture facility is being built in Texas. Will it work? [Oliver Milman / The Guardian]