The Reversing Climate Change podcast with Nori
A podcast about the different people, technologies, and organizations that are coming together to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reverse climate change. We also talk about blockchains.
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#14 Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight Technologies

March 6, 2018


‘If you are a hard-core environmentalist, be a hard-core industrialist. Figure out technology that can outcompete the things that are making the environment bad, and then you can move at scale.’

Mark Herrema is the Co-Founder and CEO of Newlight Technologies, an advanced biotechnology company using carbon capture to produce high-performance polymers that replace oil-based materials. Newlight was founded on the idea that carbon could be used as a resource, and today it operates the world’s first commercial-scale greenhouse gas-to-AirCarbon manufacturing facilities, producing bioplastics used in furniture, electronics, packaging and a range of other products. Newlight has been named Innovation of the Year by Popular Science, 2015 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, and 2014 Company of the Year by CleanTech OC.

Today, Mark joins Ross and Christophe to share the inspiration behind Newlight Technologies and how it rose to the challenge of competing with traditional plastics in terms of price and performance. Mark discusses Newlight’s role in transforming the plastics industry and his long-term vision of a licensing model that inspires growth in the areas of bioplastic products and production. They discuss how emerging carbon capture techniques could benefit Newlight and how Nori might change the terms of the climate change debate by monetizing carbon removal. Listen in for Mark’s insight on altruism, incentives and how businesses like Newlight should think about subsidies.

Key Takeaways

[0:58] Mark’s inspiration for Newlight Technologies

  • Reading about calculation of methane emissions made climate change real
  • Good for environment, economy to use carbon as resource

[4:23] Mark’s take on altruism vs. incentives

  • Must harness market forces to move at necessary speed, scale

[5:31] Newlight Technologies’ founding challenge

  • Develop materials that compete on price, performance

[6:59] Newlight’s role in transforming the plastics industry

  • Replace plastics with bioplastics (biodegradable, don’t require fossil fuels)
  • Reach point where oil/gas chooses to build air carbon plant for profitability

[11:24] Newlight’s sources of methane and CO2

  • Farm digesters, landfills and flares
  • Power, ethanol plants

[15:54] Newlight’s cradle-to-grave carbon accounting

  • Ran two third-party LCAs to verify reduction of carbon footprint
  • Must use renewable power to make CO2 capture carbon neutral

[19:40] The benefits of polymers used by Newlight

  • Repeating unit structure produced in all living things
  • Natural molecule biocompatible with human body (healthier)

[22:11] Mark’s big vision for Newlight Technologies

  • Licensing model to replace plastics with bioplastics
  • Build reference plants to demonstrate possibilities
  • Inspire imagination with products like cell phone cases

[25:01] How carbon capture techniques would benefit Newlight

  • Run process from anywhere on globe
  • Scale up in short time frame

[32:09] Nori’s role in creating a carbon offset market

  • Simplify process, open-source on blockchain
  • Carbon removal credits create universal price
  • Monetization changes terms of debate

[37:12] Nori’s challenge around verification of carbon removal

  • Each method requires unique approach to measurement

[38:00] How Nori differs from existing carbon registries

  • Reduce barrier to entry (no fees to create methodologies)
  • Don’t have to prove additionality

[40:16] Mark’s insight on 45Q

  • Tax credits for utilizing carbon (from power plant, atmosphere)
  • Incentives overdo, but business must survive without it


Newlight Technologies


45Q Tax Credit


Each week, Nori offers insights and shares success stories on how removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere is impacting our climate, and details on our marketplace progress and buildout for launch.

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