The dire consequences of the ongoing climate crisis are enough to make some people drink, so making alcohol from gas that heats the planet is perhaps a logical next step.
A New York City company has created what it calls “the world’s most sustainable spirit” by making vodka from carbon dioxide captured in the air. The 40% drink, aptly called Air vodka, removes a pound of CO2 from the atmosphere for every bottle it makes, its maker said.
The Air Company, which began making vodka from a Brooklyn plant in 2019, produces about 5,000 cases of the product per year, with a new plant slated to increase production. The company, which was a finalist for Elon Musk’s Xprize, hopes to be at the forefront of companies that create objects from captured CO2 – other uses include concrete reinforcement and production of materials for replace some plastics and metals.
“People thought we were crazy about batshit when we started – some still do, I think,” said Gregory Constantine, an Australian entrepreneur who started the climate-friendly distillery with Stafford Sheehan. The duo claim that traditional vodka, which involves fermenting the grains, releases around 15 pounds of CO2 for each bottle made.
The airline takes the CO2, either sucked directly from the air or captured at the source in industrial facilities, and combines it with hydrogen created by electrolysis – the process by which electricity is used to split the water to hydrogen and oxygen. The technology used to fuse these elements creates ethanol which, when combined with water, becomes vodka.
This same ethanol is also used to make a hand sanitizer and, starting this week, is being rolled out by Air Company to create a new fragrance called Air Eau de Parfum.
The Guardian visited a pop-up storefront in Manhattan, populated by company staff wearing white lab coats, to see the very first batch of CO2-free perfume, which has a faint citrus scent, to be distributed in a vial. Vodka was also available to drink – it tastes crisp and clear and would be difficult to differentiate from more traditional vodkas.
Faced with the scale of the climate emergency, these products could appear as a frivolous indulgence. Human activity continues to emit record amounts of greenhouse gases, even after a low in Covid, led by a formidable fossil fuel industry subsidized by global governments to the tune of $ 11 million per minute.
Efforts to capture carbon pollution at the source or suck it directly into the air have been called a “dangerous distraction” by environmentalists who argue that only the complete dismantling of oil, coal and oil production. of gas will prevent a climate catastrophe.
But Constantine says if other heavy ethanol users switched to carbon-negative processes, it would lead to a significant reduction in global emissions. Ethanol can be used to create fuels for cars, trucks and airplanes, as well as in cleaning products and for other uses.
“If we can be a beacon for other people to try this, to help industries and the planet, that’s a huge victory,” he said. “As other industries embark on the adventure, the costs will come down. We want more businesses to do this.
Constantine said people can, meanwhile, have a drink and worry about the climate at the same time. “People are going to drink anyway, people have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years, so if you can come up with a solution that makes them feel reassured, that’s part of it,” he said.