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Keeling Curve Prize Winners Hope to Clear the Air

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Monday, July 1, 2019   

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A group working to get electric rickshaws into polluted Indian cities and a start-up that recycles carbon dioxide from the air to make "cost-competitive" fuel and chemicals, those are two of the ten winners in this second year of the Keeling Curve Prize.

The judges looked at more than 150 "promising projects" to cut greenhouse gases. Jacquelyn Francis, founder and executive director of the Keeling Curve Prize, said they named the winners in five categories on Friday. She said high-tech company Opus 12 is developing a device to make products from CO2, electricity and water.

Meanwhile, a low-tech carbon solution also would make the Mexican coast more resilient.

"Wildcoast is a mangrove restoration in Mexico,” Francis said. “A winner that I'm really excited about is the World Council of Churches. They have half a billion members, and they're going to embark on an education program for some of their younger constituents."

When Charles David Keeling started measuring CO2 in the air in Hawaii in the 1950s, the number of parts per million was about where it had been for thousands of years. Since then, it's risen by a third — to the highest level in human history.

Francis said many of the winning projects are having benefits beyond greenhouse gas emissions. Three Wheels United provides financing and technology to replace thousands of India's notoriously dirty auto-rickshaws with clean, efficient electric-powered models.

Francis said not only does that reduce CO2, it also puts more money in the pockets of the struggling drivers — and it clears the air.

"New Delhi has the worst air quality in the world,” she said. “So, this is definitely something that they need to be able to have better air quality as well as carbon-emission footprint."

The wide-ranging winners each get $25,000, money from private donations.


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