Carbon dioxide emissions have a pretty bad reputation these days. The Paris Climate Conference brought together delegations from all over the world in an effort to cut carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic global warming. But right now, the dirtiest fuel—coal—still supplies nearly 40 percent of the electricity in the U.S. and even more in many developing countries.

The good news is this gas isn’t always destructive. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can actually be turned into a building block to make all sorts of products that we use everyday.

Wyoming, a state that is heavily dependent on coal for both jobs and revenue, has joined the furious race to control carbon—with the twin goals of slowing climate change and also keeping its coal on the market. One of the latest efforts is a $15 million investment in a carbon testing center called the Integrated Test Center that will be built near Gillette.

One of the ITC’s first tenants will be teams competing for the Carbon XPrize. It is a $20 million challenge, sponsored by energy giant NRG Energy and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. A promotional video urges viewers to “reimagine CO2,” while animated sunglasses, bicycles, sneakers and smartphones dance around the screen.

The goal of the competition is to “develop breakthrough technologies that will convert CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities into valuable products like building materials, low-emissions fuels and other items that we use everyday,” the narrator in the video explains.

In other words, the big vision is to remove carbon dioxide from the emissions that come out of a smokestack and put them to use. The technical term for this seemingly basic innovation? Carbon utilization.

Continue reading this story at Inside Energy »

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This story comes from our partners at Inside Energy, a reporting project covering energy issues from North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.