In 2007, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and business mogul Richard Branson of Virgin Group announced a joint venture: the Virgin Earth Challenge, a competition to remove carbon dioxide from the air. It's a call to scientists and engineers to design a CO2 removal system that makes a real difference in long-term global warming predictions -- specifically, it must remove, at a minimum, a billion tons of CO2 per year during 10 years of operation. But that's not all.
The system has to be commercially viable, and it can't do any harm to the environment in the process of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.
In exchange for this tall order, the Virgin Earth Challenge offers $25 million. It's the largest science and technology prize ever offered, and it'll be on the table for an initial five-year period [source: EL].
If engineers will be clambering for a $25-million chance to save the planet, imagine the rush for a $300-million endeavor. During his 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain suggested a $300-million, presumably government-sponsored prize for the inventor of a super high-efficiency car battery.
No word yet on whether the government is signing on.
For more information on environmental prizes and related topics, look over the links on the next page.